What is Meningitis?
Meningitis is the acute inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. These protective membranes, shown below, are collectively identified as the meninges. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 4,000 people contract bacterial meningitis each year in the United States. Of these people, between 400 and 500 will die. If untreated, bacterial meningitis is almost always fatal. A delay in diagnosing bacterial meningitis and the initiation of needed antibiotics can result in devastating consequences.
In addition to bacterial meningitis, meningitis can also be caused by viral or fungal sources. Viral meningitis is most often caused by Enterovirus, Herpes Simplex Virus, and the West Nile Virus. Viral meningitis usually occurs in the late summer and early fall and typically resolves without treatment. However, it too has been associated with patient deaths and other serious long-term disabilities, including brain damage, hearing loss, and neurologic issues. People with weakened immune systems, such as infants, the elderly, and those with chronic health issues, are at increased risk for viral meningitis.
Fungal meningitis is a rarer form of the disease that usually affects people with a severely compromised immune system. As a result, patients who do not have a spleen or suffer from a disease, such as AIDS, are at increased risk for fungal meningitis.
What is Meningitis Medical Malpractice?
Since meningitis is a rare infection, some healthcare providers rule out the possibility of patients being infected by the disease. This can hinder a timely diagnosis, affecting the prognosis or outcome for patients who have contracted meningitis.
This aspect especially holds in the case of bacterial meningitis, which has a high mortality rate and needs treatment on a swift and urgent basis. But it also stands tall in viral meningitis, a less severe yet still serious form of the disease. Other rarer forms of the disease, such as fungal meningitis and parasitic meningitis present the same requirement and risks.
If a healthcare provider fails to consider the possibility of meningitis in their patient and overlooks required diagnostics, it can have devastating effects on the infected person. If you or a loved one have gone through such a situation, you need the assistance of meningitis malpractice attorneys in Pittsburgh. This allows you to determine if your healthcare provider mishandled your meningitis case and if you have legal grounds to pursue a medical malpractice claim.
While trying to determine if your healthcare provider showed negligence or misconduct while handling your or your loved one’s meningitis, learning about the condition, its symptoms, and its complications can help. When you have the relevant information at hand, it becomes easier to determine if your healthcare provider could have done a better job handling the case.
Learning about meningitis risk factors allows you to assess if your healthcare provider could have easily differentiated between regular fever and meningitis, or at least considered the possibility of the latter.
Anyone can develop meningitis. However, meningitis most often strikes:
- Newborns and infants who are less than one year of age.
- Adults that are older than 60.
- Those living in crowded environments, such as college dorms and military bases.
- Individuals who have failed to complete the recommended childhood or adult vaccine regimens.
- Individuals who have a damaged or missing spleen.
- Individuals who have been exposed to a meningitis outbreak.
Generally, the germs that cause meningitis are spread person-to-person.
If you or your loved ones belong to any of these categories that increase the risk for meningitis, you can assess if your symptoms and have it treated. From there, looking at the symptoms themselves allows you to have a clearer perspective on how your healthcare provider managed the disease.
Symptoms of meningitis
In adult patients, the most common symptoms of meningitis are fever and neck stiffness. Meningitis can also cause patients to experience confusion and altered consciousness or lethargy. This is why the “class triad” of meningitis has been defined to include fever, neck stiffness, and altered mental status. However, less than one-half of patients diagnosed with meningitis, present with all 3 of the “classic” symptoms. In addition, to the so-called “classic” symptoms, patients with meningitis often complain of headache, light and noise sensitivity, and fatigue.
Unlike adult patients, in children, the symptoms of meningitis are often much less specific. Oftentimes, the child will be extremely irritable to the point where they become inconsolable.
This outlines that the symptoms of meningitis are unfortunately similar to common and less serious diseases such as seasonal allergies or hay fever. In turn, this makes it difficult to diagnose the disease. But that is exactly where a healthcare provider’s expertise is required to relate the symptoms to risk factors and recent patient history and possible causes. If you notice a failure by the healthcare provider’s end in this regard, you should reach out to meningitis malpractice attorneys in Pittsburgh.
Bacterial meningitis is a potentially life-threatening disease with a high mortality rate if untreated. The most common sources of bacterial meningitis are:
- This bacterium is the most common cause of bacterial meningitis in infants, young children, and adults in the United States. It more commonly causes pneumonia or ear or sinus infections.
- This bacterium is another leading cause of bacterial meningitis. It commonly causes an upper respiratory infection but can cause meningococcal meningitis when it enters the bloodstream. This is a highly contagious infection that affects mainly teenagers and young adults. It may cause local epidemics in college dormitories, boarding schools, and military bases.
- These bacteria can be found in unpasteurized cheeses, hot dogs, and lunchmeats. Pregnant women, newborns, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems are most susceptible. Listeria can cross the placental barrier, and infections in late pregnancy may be fatal to the baby.
Bacterial meningitis often begins when bacteria enters the bloodstream from the sinuses, ears, or throat. After entering the bloodstream, the bacteria can travel to the brain, causing meningitis.
Viral meningitis is both more common and usually less serious than bacterial meningitis. It usually will resolve on its own, without treatment, within a week or so after the onset of symptoms.
The best way to prevent bacterial meningitis is to be vaccinated, as vaccines are available for the major strains of bacteria known to cause meningitis. There are also vaccines available to prevent some kinds of viral meningitis. Due to this reason, it becomes critical for healthcare providers to ask if vaccines have been administered in patients who match the symptoms of meningitis.
Lumbar puncture is the “gold standard” for diagnosing bacterial meningitis. A lumbar puncture is performed by positioning the patient on their side, applying a local anesthetic, and then inserting a needle into the dural sac to collect Cerebral Spinal Fluid. The fluid is then sent to the lab for evaluation.
Because there are so many potential causes of meningitis, it is crucial to identify the correct source as treatment varies greatly depending upon the cause. If there are clear indicators yet the infection remains undetected or tested for, leading to further suffering, you may have experienced meningitis medical malpractice and be entitled to compensation for your injuries.
What Do Meningitis Malpractice Attorneys in Pittsburgh Can Do to Help with this Medical Malpractice?
When you reach out to Frischman & Rizza to pursue legal action for possible mishandling of meningitis, our specialized medical malpractice attorneys make it a point to help you through the challenging process. This ensures that you do not have to go through the grueling path alone while experiencing the consequences of your healthcare provider’s actions, whether they were intentional or took place by mistake.
During the process, we take care of the following aspects.
- Performing a personalized consultation.
- Determining the strength of your case.
- Gathering the required evidence.
- Filing a lawsuit.
- Presenting arguments.
- Considering possible settlement.
- Securing compensation.
We also stand by your side and ensure our swift availability during your case. Whether you have any inquiries or need to consider options for settlement, we guide you through facts and analysis while respecting your decisions at every step.
We understand that a free consultation is critical to start your inquiry into your experience with medical professionals and set a time to meet with you.
Unfortunately, meningitis is often misdiagnosed by doctors. If a patient presents to a doctor with complaints of fever and fatigue, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion or diagnosis of the Flu.
Without asking about other more subtle symptoms associated with meningitis, such as light or noise sensitivity or examining the patient to determine if they can place their chin on their chest without pain, the patient can be prematurely sent home without consideration meningitis. When this occurs, the patient is deprived of treatment and can quickly become dangerously ill.
To secure justice and seek damages for your meningitis malpractice case in Pittsburgh, don’t hesitate to contact us for a detailed consultation today. We will be glad to understand your concerns and guide you through the otherwise daunting process right away.