Meningitis is an inflammation of the meninges, which is the thin, membranous outer covering of both the brain and spinal cord. Usually, the brain is protected by the meninges, which serves as a barrier between your bloodstream and the brain itself. However, when bacteria, viruses or other sources have infiltrated the brain, infection can cause the brain to swell.
If meningitis is left untreated, it could result in the death of brain tissue and other serious consequences. For pregnant women, meningitis can be deadly if not detected and immediately treated. If you or your child suffered severe infection due to medical malpractice, please call Stern Law, PLLC at (800) 462-5772 to review your legal options.
Risk factors associated with developing meningitis
There are a number of risk factors that affect your chances of developing meningitis. These include:
- Being extremely young or of an advanced age
- Never having been vaccinated for the measles, mumps and rubella
- Travel to areas where meningitis is common
- Having previously been diagnosed with HSV-2
- IV drug use
- A history of sickle cell anemia
- Having a weakened immune system due to disease or infection
- Living in a communal setting, such as on a college campus or military base
- A compromised immune system – factors that lead to this condition are HIV/AIDS, alcoholism, diabetes and the use of certain immunosuppressant medications
- Having the spleen removed
- Undergoing chemotherapy
What are the signs and symptoms of meningitis?
In adults, including pregnant women, the following are the most common signs of meningitis:
- Flu-like symptoms, such as a sudden high fever, chills, sore throat, coughing, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and severe, unrelenting headaches
- Light sensitivity, or photophobia
- Confusion or difficulty concentrating
- Lack of appetite
- Stiffness in the neck, which worsens when trying to touch one’s chin to their chest
- Skin rash
Diagnosing meningitis in newborns can be extremely difficult, as the signs and symptoms of the condition are not as readily apparent as in adults. However, newborns typically display the following signs and symptoms of the infection, which include:
- High fever
- Incessant crying that worsens when picked up and held
- Incessant crying that does not stop when comforted
- Body stiffness, especially in the baby’s neck
- A bulging fontanel, which is the swelling of the top center of an infant’s head
- Poor appetite
- Cerebral palsy
- Mental retardation
- Organ damage
Different types of meningitis can result in different symptoms and levels of severity. Accurate diagnosis is critical to proper treatment.
How is meningitis diagnosed?
Meningitis, if left untreated, can have serious and sometimes fatal consequences. That is why it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention if you or your child experiences any of the above symptoms of the condition. If a doctor suspects meningitis in either you or your newborn, he or she will likely take the following steps to verify a diagnosis of the infection:
- Blood test
- Spinal tap, or lumbar puncture – This test is able to identify viruses found in fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord
- CT Scan and MRI
- Neurological examination – This determines the extent of confusion and drowsiness
- Physical exam
Depending upon the patient, some of the above tests may or may not be appropriate to diagnose a case of meningitis because the use of X-ray imaging is generally not recommended in pregnant women. As such, doctors must determine which method is most appropriate for their patient, whether it be a pregnant woman or a newborn.
Meningitis can be extremely dangerous for anybody, but it can especially harmful to a pregnant woman who has to be concerned not only with her health but that of her baby, too. If you or your child were the victim of an infection error caused by medical negligence, please call (800) 462-5772 to find out how Stern Law, PLLC can help.