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Osteomyelitis complicating secondarily infected atopic eczema: two case reports and a narrative literature review

  • Masuka, Josiah T.1, 2
  • Troisi, Katherine2
  • Mkhize, Zamambo1, 2
  • 1 Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, Private Bag X7, Congella, Durban, 4013, South Africa , Durban (South Africa)
  • 2 Edendale Hospital, 89 Selby Msimang Rd, Pleissislaer, Pietermaritzburg, 3201, South Africa , Pietermaritzburg (South Africa)
Published Article
BMC Dermatology
BioMed Central
Publication Date
Feb 03, 2020
DOI: 10.1186/s12895-019-0098-0
Springer Nature


BackgroundAtopic eczema is a relapsing, itchy chronic cutaneous inflammatory disease that commonly affects children. The disease is often complicated by cutaneous infections such as eczema herpeticum, eczema vaccinatum and a varied number of bacterial infections – impetigo, cellulitis and erysipelas. However, rare case reports of infective endocarditis, otitis media and osteo-articular infections have been associated with atopic eczema. These associations possibly represent the extracutaneous infectious complications of atopic eczema.Case presentationHere we present two cases of osteomyelitis in HIV negative children with habitual scratching of poorly managed and/or uncontrolled atopic eczema respectively. Both cases presented to the orthopaedic surgeons and were admitted as acute phalangeal osteomyelitis and acute – on – chronic tibial osteomyelitis respectively. The first case was an 8 year old girl who had moderate-severe poorly-controlled atopic eczema and contiguously spread phalangeal osteomyelitis. The second case was an 11 year old pre-pubertal boy who had untreated atopic eczema and tibial osteomyelitis possibly from haematogenously spread Staphylococcus aureus infection. Both were successfully discharged from hospital and currently have well controlled eczema. The 11 year old patient is also being reviewed monthly by the orthopaedic surgeons and is chronic suppressive antibiotics. He may require sequestrectomy, should it be needed.ConclusionsInvasive staphylococcal and streptococcal osteo-articular (OA) infection can arise as an extra-cutaneous infectious complication of poorly controlled atopic eczema. It is more common in the 3 to 15 year age group and especially in boys with a septic arthritis to osteomyelitis ratio of around 29:5. Clinicians should maintain a high index of suspicion in patients with moderate-severe atopic eczema and they ought to promptly manage these OA infections with intravenous antibiotics to avoid further complications.

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