BIKLaw Medical Malpractice Lawyer > Catastrophic Injury > How is Meningitis Diagnosed?

Without a doubt, meningitis is scary!

In general terms, it’s an inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spine; both of which are very sensitive areas of the human body.

Usually, a bacterial or viral infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spine causes the swelling.   In either case, if left untreated, or if treated incorrectly, meningitis can have catastrophic consequences.

The Five Types of Meningitis

Meningitis is an incredibly serious and, it can be a fatal disease; yet its early signs often look like the flu, which can make it very difficult to diagnose. The condition takes 5 main forms:

  1. Viral
  2. Bacterial
  3. Parasitic
  4. Fungal
  5. Non-Infectious or Aseptic

Viral meningitis often resolves on its own without treatment, however making the diagnosis of viral meningitis is equally as important as diagnosing the other causes of meningitis, even if only to exclude the other more serious causes. If, however, you have bacterial or fungal meningitis (parasitic and aseptic meningitis are far more rare forms of meningitis than the other forms), early medical diagnosis and treatment is essential.

It’s Important to Get the Diagnosis Right

If medical treatment is delayed because signs are misinterpreted or mistaken for influenza, there can be serious repercussions.

While no symptom can itself guarantee a diagnosis of meningitis, symptoms such as unexpected fever, serious headache, and a stiff neck are the hallmark indicators of the disease. Anyone experiencing these signs should immediately seek medical attention.

Making The Diagnosis of Meningitis

Step one of diagnosing meningitis requires a physical examination. A doctor should perform specific tests while performing the physical examination to look for indicators that a patient may have meningitis.

Step two of diagnosing the condition is looking for “Brudzinski’s Sign,” which is a test where the stiffness in a patient’s neck causes the patient to immediately bend the knees and hips when bending the neck.

A physician should also look for “Kernig’s Sign.” This is a test to measure if the patient feels any pain in the thigh when extending the leg.

Finally, a doctor may start a patient on prescription antibiotics right away, even before determining the type of meningitis.  Prescription antibiotics are recommended, often as a precaution where there is a reasonably high likelihood of the patient having meningitis.

Biological Tests for Meningitis

In addition to a physical exam, there are biological tests that should be performed to confirm or deny the existence of meningitis. These tests include:

  • Blood tests. Basic blood tests are performed to search for signs that point to the existence of meningitis.
  • CT scan. Brain scans can reveal inflammation, internal bleeding, or other irregularities in the spine and brain tissue. It can also spot conditions such as brain swelling, abscess, or hemorrhage, which might make a lumbar puncture risky.
  • Spinal Tap. Inflammation is usually brought on by an infection in the spinal fluid. A spinal tap collects a sample of this cerebrospinal fluid so that it can be sent to a lab for further inspection.

What to Do If You Were Misdiagnosed

Unfortunately, not all doctors get the diagnosis right. This may or may not be their fault. If you believe that you or a loved one contracted meningitis due to malpractice or negligence, then it might be a good time to speak with a Los Angeles catastrophic injury lawyer, such as one of the lawyers at The Trial Law Offices of Bradley I. Kramer. Contact us to see how we can help ease your burden and determine whether or not you are deserving of compensation for your injuries.

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