The meninges is the thin membrane that covers the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis is a bacterial infection of the meninges. Most bacterial meningitis cases are caused by infection but may be caused by chemical irritants, fungi, tumors or drug allergies. If meningitis is not diagnosed and treated, it can become life-threatening. This is because the infection is so close to the brain and spinal cord.
The most common symptoms of meningitis are severe headache, stiff neck, fever, tiredness, and confusion. In newborns and young children, the symptoms can be the lack of appetite, irritability, vomiting, fever, or high pitched crying. Other symptoms in children include leg pain, cold, lower extremities and perhaps a purplish skin coloring or mottling. These symptoms are alarming and must be acted upon immediately.
The causes of meningitis are many. Some of the most common causes are these different bacterial organisms that attack the body’s defense systems:
- Group B Strep;
- Tuberculosis or TB;
- Staph infection (Staphylococcal);
- Gram negative;
- H. influenza;
- Mumps; and
In those cases where meningitis is diagnosed and the treatment plan begins, a spinal tap or lung puncture is usually done. The exception for the spinal tap or lumbar puncture are in cases where there is an observed brain mass or increased intracranial pressure that could worsen to a deadly brain herniation. This is another reason why immediate medical attention is critical. Most of those afflicted are children, teens and young adults.
In those cases where a lumbar puncture is done, a small sample of the spinal fluid is sent to a lab for analysis. Once the lab work is done, the doctor would not wait what may be several days for the final culture report to come back to start the patient on antibiotic treatment. Empiric antibiotics are essentially a guess by a doctor as what would best cover the bacteria that the patient is most likely to have based on age and symptoms. However, although it is uncertain, this is the medicine, the antibiotic that is needed to prevent a worsening of the infectious process. Once the culture comes back identified, then the specific antibiotics would be switched to directly treat that particular bacteria.
Immediate diagnosis and treatment of bacterial meningitis is essential. Meningitis can cause permanent brain damage, neurologic deficits, mental retardation, cerebral palsy, seizures, epilepsy, brain swelling, amputations and death. This is a very serious condition that requires immediate medical treatment.
Those most at risk for bacterial meningitis are the very young, age 5 or younger or those in the older population, age 60 and above. In addition, those with diabetes mellitus, renal or adrenal insufficiency, hypoparathyroidism, cystic fibrosis, immunosuppression, HIV, those residing in crowded quarters like college dorms or in the military or recently exposed to meningitis are at risk.
The treatment for bacterial meningitis is dependent on the underlying bacterial found when cultured. By treating the most common type of bacteria, the risk of death is reduced below 15%. When symptoms of meningitis manifest themselves, such as brain swelling, shock and seizures, the patients are treated with medicines and by intravenous fluids to help control the infection. Complications from meningitis include brain damage, hearing loss, seizures, brain swelling and subdural effusion.
For those exposed to meningitis or at risk of contracting it, there is a meningococcal vaccination that has proven to be effective.
The diagnosis and treatment of bacterial meningitis is imperative to prevent serious and permanent injuries or death. In cases where the deadly bacterial meningitis is dismissed by medical providers as a viral illness, the results can be devastating. The doctors and other healthcare professionals are required to rule out the most deadly possible cause of the symptoms. The ruling out process or differential diagnosis can best be done by CT scan or lumbar puncture. If a medical professional were negligent either commission or omission in taking care of a bacterial meningitis patient, the harm can be death or serious brain injury.
If you or a loved one has suffered an injury or death following a failure to diagnose and treat bacterial meningitis, please call us for an immediate free consultation. Robert Kreisman of Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Chicago and Illinois failure to diagnose birth injury cases for more than 40 years.
With our years of experience in trying and settling bacterial meningitis cases, Kreisman Law Offices provides the best possible services to our clients. Our service is unmatched. Please call us 24 hours a day at 312.346.0045 or toll free 800.583.8002 for a free and immediate consultation, or complete a contact form online. There is no charge for a consultation that will include an evaluation of your case.