What is Brodie's Abscess?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Long bones, like the tibia and fibula, are those bones whose length exceeds their width.
Long bones, like the tibia and fibula, are those bones whose length exceeds their width.

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.

Osteomyelitis may cause swelling of the ankles and feet.
Osteomyelitis may cause swelling of the ankles and feet.

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.

The elderly are susceptible to developing osteomyelitis.
The elderly are susceptible to developing osteomyelitis.

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.

Severe cases of Brodie's abscess may necessitate amputation.
Severe cases of Brodie's abscess may necessitate amputation.

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.

Infection and inflammation around the bone may interfere with bone development in children.
Infection and inflammation around the bone may interfere with bone development in children.

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.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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    • Long bones, like the tibia and fibula, are those bones whose length exceeds their width.
      Long bones, like the tibia and fibula, are those bones whose length exceeds their width.
    • Osteomyelitis may cause swelling of the ankles and feet.
      Osteomyelitis may cause swelling of the ankles and feet.
    • The elderly are susceptible to developing osteomyelitis.
      The elderly are susceptible to developing osteomyelitis.
    • Severe cases of Brodie's abscess may necessitate amputation.
      Severe cases of Brodie's abscess may necessitate amputation.
    • Infection and inflammation around the bone may interfere with bone development in children.
      Infection and inflammation around the bone may interfere with bone development in children.
    • Medical imaging studies of Brodie's abscess will show a change in the bone at the site of the abscess.
      Medical imaging studies of Brodie's abscess will show a change in the bone at the site of the abscess.