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Failure to diagnose meningitis

Meningitis is a very serious disease with grave implications if not identified and treated quickly, so early diagnosis is essential.

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Meningitis is caused by either a virus or bacteria, which infects the spinal fluid and leads to inflammation of the brain. This can lead to the death of the patient, permanent brain damage or disability and is particularly dangerous for babies and young children. The bacterial form of meningitis is the most dangerous and requires immediate medical care.

Given the need to treat meningitis as soon as possible, this failure can have tragic effects

The early symptoms of meningitis include pain in the muscles, joints or limbs, unusually cold hands and feet, or shivering and pale or blotchy skin and blue lips. These may be accompanied by a fever, headache vomiting and a blotchy red body rash which does not turn white to the touch. Later stage can include neck stiffness, photophobia and confusion.

Symptoms in babies often vary from those in adults and include vomiting, drowsiness or floppiness, irritability and a refusal to feed. They may also develop a swelling in the front of the head and a ‘staring expression’.

Unfortunately, it is all too common for medical professionals to mistake these symptoms for other, less serious, conditions. Given the need to treat meningitis as soon as possible, this failure can have tragic effects.

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