What is Bacterial Meningitis?
The brain and spinal cord are protected by meninges. Bacterial meningitis is an infection of the meninges. Although most individuals contract bacterial meningitis because of an infection, it can also be caused by fungi, tumors, drug allergies, and certain chemical irritants. Because bacterial meningitis occurs close to the brain and spinal cord, it is vital that it’s diagnosed and treated promptly to avoid life-threatening complications.
What are Symptoms of Bacterial Meningitis?
While symptoms can vary based on several factors, the most common symptoms of bacterial meningitis include fever, confusion, stiff neck, extreme headaches, and lack of energy. Young children and newborns can also experience loss of appetite, vomiting, and irritability. Children may also have leg pain and feel coldness in their lower extremities, and some children with the condition may also have purple skin coloring.
What Causes Bacterial Meningitis?
There are many causes of meningitis. These are the most common bacterial organisms that hinder the body’s defense systems and can lead to an infection:
- Gram negative;
- Group B Strep;
- H. influenza;
How is it Diagnosed and Treated?
In most circumstances, a spinal tap or lumbar puncture will be administered to diagnosis individuals with symptoms. A lumbar puncture is typically done when there is a known brain mass or increased levels of intracranial pressure, which could lead to a brain herniation. A CT scan may also be used to identify meningitis. The majority of individuals who are diagnosed with bacterial meningitis are children, teens, and younger adults, which is why it is imperative that these individuals get immediate medical attention.
When a lumbar puncture is administered, a small amount of spinal fluid will be collected and sent to the lab for testing. Once the lab technicians have analyzed the sample, the final culture report will let the doctor know which antibiotic is best to treat the specific type of bacteria. However, doctors typically start their patients on a general antibiotic until the results are back from the lab. Doctors will usually prescribe an interim antibiotic based on the symptoms and age of the individual. This treatment is beneficial because it may be able to prevent the spread of the infectious bacteria.
It is vital that bacterial meningitis is diagnosed and treatment as soon as the symptoms surface. When the condition is left untreated, it can cause:
- Irreversible brain damage;
- Cerebral palsy;
- Swelling of the brain;
- Mental and neurological defects;
- Permanent brain damage.
In addition, the condition can also cause amputations and death if left untreated. Children who are younger than the age of five are at the highest risk of bacterial meningitis. Individuals who are over the age of 60 are also at an increased risk of getting bacterial meningitis, and individuals with the following conditions may are also at a higher risk:
- Cystic fibrosis;
- Renal insufficiency;
- Adrenal insufficiency;
- Diabetes mellitus;
With bacterial meningitis, the treatment is based on which type of bacteria is found during the lab culture. When treatment involves the most common type of bacteria, the risk of dying is reduced below 15 percent.
However, when certain symptoms are present, which include seizures, brain swelling, and shock, medication is administered by intravenous fluids to control the spread of the infection. The complications that can arise from bacterial meningitis include hearing loss, brain swelling, brain damage, and subdural effusion.
Individuals who have been exposed to bacterial meningitis can get a meningococcal vaccination, which is also available to those who are at an increased risk of developing the infection.
Because the treatment of bacterial meningitis is essential to prevent injuries or death, it can be devastating when a medial professional misdiagnosis the infection with a viral condition. It is the duty of healthcare professionals to rule out the most deadly possible causes of the symptoms in their patients. The most effective ways to diagnosis bacterial meningitis is with a lumbar puncture or CT scan, and if a healthcare professional was negligent in ordering the necessary procedures, then it can lead to serious injury or death.
Have you or a loved one suffered from an injury because a healthcare professional failed to diagnose and treat bacterial meningitis? We welcome you to contact us at Zayed Law Offices for a consultation. Our team of legal professionals have the expertise and resources to help you get the compensation that you deserve. We have office locations in Chicago, Rockford, Wheaton, and Joliet.