Meningitis is a bacterial infection of the meninges or the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. If meningitis is not diagnosed and treated right away it could become life-threatening due to the infection being so close to the brain and spinal cord.
In teenagers, college students, and adults the most common symptoms of meningitis are headache, stiff neck, fever, confusion, lethargy or tiredness, an inability to tolerate bright lights (photophobia) or loud noises (phonophobia). In newborns, infants, and small children the symptoms can be poor feeding, irritability, arching of the back, vomiting, fever, and a high pitched cry. If the anterior fontanel or soft spot is still open it can feel fuller or look to be bulging. Some other symptoms in children that might distinguish meningitis from other childhood illnesses are leg pain, cold extremities, and an abnormal purplish skin coloring or mottling.
Meningitis can be caused by the following organisms:
- Haemophilus influenzae
- S. pneumoniae
- Pneumococcal or mumps virus
- Neiserria meningitides (meningococcal meningitis) – This form of meningitis also produces a petechiael rash or purple spots on the skin.
- Group B Strep
- Escherichia coli (Ecoli)
- Listeria monocytogenes
- Tuberculous or TB
- Staphylococcal (staph)
Once meningitis is suspected the patient should have a spinal tap or lumbar puncture (LP) performed unless they have a brain mass or increased intracranial pressure as it may lead to a brain herniation. A lumbar puncture takes a small sample of the spinal fluid so it can be sent to the lab for testing. Once the LP is completed, physicians should not wait for the final culture report to come back to start the patient on antibiotic treatment. They should immediately start the patient on empiric antibiotics that might cover whatever bacteria the patient may have that is common in their age group. Once the culture reports return with the organism identified, the antibiotics should be switched to the most appropriate antibiotic to treat the specific bacteria.
Early diagnosis and treatment of bacterial meningitis is necessary to prevent permanent brain damage, neurologic deficits, mental retardation, cerebral palsy, deafness, seizures or epilepsy, hydrocephalus, loss of digits or limbs, amputations, developmental delays or death.
If you, your baby or loved one has suffered due to bacterial meningitis that was not properly diagnosed or treated, please feel free to contact one of our experienced Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers, doctors or nurses at 1.888.823.5291. Our highly specialized failure to treat infection team consists of doctors and nurses who have spent thousands of hours at patient’s bedsides treating individuals with infections and meningitis. To date, we have had over $2 billion awarded on behalf of our injured clients with multiple million and multi-million verdicts and settlements.