Bacterial Meningitis

Bacterial meningitis is a serious and potentially deadly disease of the central nervous system. Several types of bacteria can cause an infection that inflames the membranes – or meninges – around the brain and spinal cord. Common symptoms include fever, a severe headache, and stiff neck, often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, aching muscles, and lethargy.

The consequences of bacterial meningitis can be severe – permanent brain damage, hearing loss, and death. This fast-acting illness can cause its worst affects within hours after a person contracts it. The disease is also highly contagious and is spread through coughing and sneezing.

Because of its severity, bacterial meningitis needs to be diagnosed and the right treatment given quickly. However, it can be misdiagnosed as a different form of meningitis or as a similar disease. In the case of a misdiagnosis, doctors might give patients the wrong medication or treatment, worsening their symptoms and possibly even leading to death.

To get a correct diagnosis, a patient must first tell the doctor all of the symptoms he or she is experiencing, so the doctor can suspect bacterial meningitis. As a test, the doctor will perform a spinal tap by inserting a needle into the lower back and drawing out a sample of spinal fluid. The bacteria in the fluid sample will be cultivated and analyzed to determine exactly what type is causing the patient’s illness.

In the meantime, if bacterial meningitis is suspected, the doctor should immediately begin empiric therapy. The doctor should give general antibiotics to start killing off the bacteria causing the infection. This gives a patient a head-start once the specific type of bacteria causing the illness has been determined.

At this stage, there is the danger that the doctor might misdiagnose bacterial meningitis as one of several different illnesses.

For patients to receive the best treatment and have the best chance of recovery, it’s imperative that their condition be diagnosed correctly. In the case of a misdiagnosis involving bacterial meningitis, the consequences can be severe – permanent brain damage and even death.