Failure to Diagnose Bacterial Meningitis

Meningitis is a potentially deadly infection of the membranes which cover the brain and spinal cord, or the meninges. The most common cause of meningitis is a viral infection, most frequently occurring in late summer or early fall. Children and adults under the age of 30 are at greatest risk for contracting viral meningitis. Other viruses can cause meningitis, such as the herpes virus and the West Nile virus.

Viral v. Bacterial Meningitis

Antibiotics are ineffective in treating viral meningitis, and most cases of viral meningitis will resolve without lasting effect in about two weeks. However, bacterial meningitis is a serious condition that can result in brain damage or death. Acute bacterial meningitis requires hospitalization and immediate treatment with medications, intravenous fluids and other interventions.

Sadly, bacterial meningitis is frequently dismissed as a viral illness by medical professionals who opt not to perform the vital testing that can rule out bacterial illness. Failure to diagnose bacterial meningitis can have serious consequences.

Bacterial Meningitis Symptoms

  • Fever and chills
  • Mental status changes
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Light sensitivity (photophobia)
  • Severe headache
  • Stiff neck (meningismus)
  • Bulging fontanelles
  • Poor feeding or irritability in children
  • Rapid breathing
  • Unusual posture – head and neck arched backwards (opisthotonos)

Immediate treatment for bacterial meningitis includes antibiotics, depending on the type of bacteria present.

Tests that should be performed include:

  • CT scan
  • Lumbar puncture
  • Blood culture
  • Chest x-ray
  • CSF examination for cell count, glucose and protein
  • CT scan of the head
  • Gram stain, other special stains, and culture of CSF

Complications of Bacterial Meningitis

  • Brain damage
  • Buildup of fluid between the skull and brain (subdural effusion)
  • Hearing loss
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Seizures

Have you or a loved one suffered from a failure to diagnose bacterial meningitis? Consult with a qualified medical malpractice attorney today to determine if your healthcare professional was negligent.