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General Orthopaedics


The European Bone and Joint Infection Society (EBJIS), Ljubljana, Slovenia, 7–9 October 2021.



Chronic osteomyelitis reflects a progressive inflammatory process of destruction and necrosis affecting bone architecture. It presents a challenge to manage, requiring multi-stage multidisciplinary interventions, and the literature reports a wide variety of treatment strategies. This systematic scoping review aims to map and summarise existing literature on treatment of chronic osteomyelitis of the femur and tibia and investigates the full range of treatments reported in order to enhance the reader's understanding of how to manage this complex condition.


A comprehensive computer-based search was conducted in PubMed, EMBASE, MEDLINE, Emcare and CINAHL for articles reporting treatment of chronic tibial/femoral osteomyelitis. Two reviewers independently performed a two-stage title/abstract and full-text screening, followed by data collection. Studies were included if they described any treatment strategy including at least one surgical intervention. Key information extracted included causative pathogens, treatment protocol and outcome i.e. both success rate, defined as remission achieved following initial treatment with no recurrence during followup, and recurrence rate.


A total of 1230 articles were identified, and 40 articles (2529 patients) ultimately included. Although a wide variety of treatment protocols are reported, all revolve around three key principles: removal of infected tissue, dead space management and antibiotic therapy. Variations are evident when considering use of extensive versus more conservative debridement techniques, and delivery and regime of antibiotic therapy, e.g. whether to use one of, or both systemic and local delivery. The majority (84.5%) of patients presented with stage III or IV disease according to the Cierny-Mader classification and staphylococcus aureus was the most commonly isolated organism. Although there is heterogeneity across studies in reporting outcomes, with only 29 studies reporting success rate as defined in this review, 25 (86.2%) of these reported a success rate of at least 80%.


It is difficult to identify the optimal treatment strategy when reporting of outcomes is not standardised across studies, even in the context of similar techniques being used. Success rates across studies may also vary depending on patient demographics, comorbidities, severity, type and number of causative pathogens and follow-up length. It is now essential to identify specific patient and treatment related factors that may affect clinical outcomes. Given the current dominance of case series in the literature, there is a need for randomised controlled trials to yield further information that could aid future efficient management.