CASE 17521 Published on 25.11.2021

A case of brucella osteomyelitis of the femur


Musculoskeletal system

Case Type

Clinical Cases


Elena Shapovalova, Ivan Baulin, Valery Evseev

Saint-Petersburg State Research Institute of Phthisiopulmonology of the Ministry of Healthcare of the Russian Federation, Radiology, 2/4, Ligovskiy pr., Saint-Petersburg, Russia


4 years, male

Area of Interest Musculoskeletal bone ; Imaging Technique CT, Digital radiography
Clinical History

A 4-year-old male came to a hospital with complaints of undulating fever, femurs pain, impaired motor function in the lower limbs. For two years, the complaints increased and the patient was referred to our hospital with lower limb deformities and with a suspicion of a fracture of the right femoral neck.

Imaging Findings

A plain X-ray of the pelvis and knee joints was performed. It showed shortening of the diaphysis of the right femur, calcification of the soft tissues of the femur on both sides, in the proximal left tibia. Such extensive calcification might be due to the often long, chronic, subclinical course of the disease. The x-ray showed that the iliosacral joints were intact, without any pathological changes. (Fig.1a). It also showed erosion of the condyle of the left femur, preservation of a fairly uniform non-narrowed joint space, and no changes in the condyles of the tibia and patella (Fig.1b).

Pelvic computed tomography showed a comminuted fracture of the right femoral neck with a significant periosteal reaction, nonunion of bone fragments, pseudarthrosis of the right femoral neck (Fig.2).

A biopsy of the right femur was performed, a culture of Brucella melitensis was isolated. Antibodies to Brucella melitensis were also detected in blood samples. The patient was diagnosed with chronic brucellosis infection. The management of the patient included surgical treatment: detorsional supracondylar osteotomy of the left femur with plastic defect correction at the level of the distal metaepiphysis, followed by fixation with a cellacast spica cast, and antibiotics in combination therapy.


Brucellosis is a particularly dangerous and socially significant zoonotic infection caused by aerobic Gram-negative bacillus of the genus Brucella. Brucella melitensis is considered the most pathogenic species for humans [1]. Endemic areas for brucellosis include countries of the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East, Asia, the Indian subcontinent, Africa

[2,3]. Brucellosis can affect various organs and tissues: most often it is the osteoarticular system (30-85%) with arthritis, bursitis, sacroiliitis (up to 54%), spondylitis (2-50%), osteomyelitis [4,5,6]. Osteomyelitis is an extremely rare complication of brucellosis, usually affecting long tubular and flat bones. The clinical picture is non-specific - fever, bone pain, signs of local inflammation, limitation of range of motion. X-ray shows destructive changes in bones or cavities of destruction, surrounded by a zone of sclerosis, compaction of paraosseous soft tissues. Against the background of the underlying disease, pathological bone fractures can form [7, 8]. Brucellosis osteomyelitis is characterized by a periosteal reaction, calcification of soft tissues. First of all, there should be a differential diagnosis between brucellosis osteomyelitis and nonspecific osteomyelitis for which, as a rule, are not characterized by such an extensive periosteal reaction of the bone tissue. The final diagnosis is based on laboratory studies: serological methods, allergic skin testing, culture selection, or identification of the pathogen by polymerase chain reaction performed on peripheral blood / other biological fluids and tissues [9]. General principles of brucellosis treatment include the use of antibiotics in combination therapy and prolonged duration of treatment [10].

For radiologists, information about the anamnesis of the disease and clinical symptoms is the main key in making a correct preliminary diagnosis, which allows clinicians to determine the further tactics of introducing and treating a patient.

Written informed patient consent for publication has been obtained.

Differential Diagnosis List
Brucella osteomyelitis
Pyogenic osteomye
Bone tumours
Final Diagnosis
Brucella osteomyelitis
Case information
DOI: 10.35100/eurorad/case.17521
ISSN: 1563-4086