What is Brodie's Abscess?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 20 December 2018
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Brodie's abscess is a disease of the bone observed most commonly in the long bones like the femur and the tibia. It is a form of osteomyelitis or bone infection and is considered a subacute form, as the symptoms differ from those observed in patients with acute osteomyelitis. Treatment involves administration of medications to kill the causative organisms, and in some cases surgery may be needed to drain and clean the abscess. In rare cases, amputation is required as a result of damage to the bone.

In osteomyelitis, infectious organisms like staph bacteria penetrate the bone and begin breeding. Subacute forms cause vague symptoms like bone pain, tenderness of the skin above the site, and general feelings of malaise. A Brodie's abscess can be difficult to identify as the symptoms are often general and very vague, and it may take time to pin down the source of the symptoms.


Medical imaging studies of a patient with this type of abscess will show a change in the bone at the site of the abscess. In some patients, this takes the form of a thin line, while in others, a Brodie's abscess may show up as a roundish or oblong section of bone filled with pus and fluid. Sometimes, the abscess will begin to drain, causing infection and inflammation around the bone. Most commonly, the infection is situated in the metaphysis, the area of the bone between the shaft and the end, and in children, such infections can interfere with bone development.

Once diagnosed, a Brodie's abscess can be treated with antibiotic medications. The antibiotics will penetrate the bone, killing the bacteria and allowing the inflammation and infection to resolve. Drainage of the abscess can be done in surgery for large formations of pus. Surgery can also be used to debride dead tissue if the infection spread above the location of the bone. In cases where the subacute abscess is allowed to persist for an extended period of time, causing chronic pain and inflammation, sometimes the limb needs to be amputated.

People of all ages and levels of physical fitness can develop this kind of abscess and may encounter it in a variety of circumstances. Early evaluation and treatment of pain, swelling, and noticeable inflammation is critical for identifying and treating conditions like Brodie's abscess before they cause permanent damage. Seeing a specialist can be helpful for patients, as a regular doctor may not have much experience with the type of inflammation in question and may miss the warning signs.


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