Prompt diagnosis of bacterial meningitis infection is crucial for best treatment outcomes. Death rates from bacterial meningitis are around 10% with up to 1/3 of survivors suffering long-term serious neurological complications. If diagnosed and treated early, most people recover well.
Because the symptoms of meningitis are similar to flu and other viral infections, some physicians may miss the diagnosis and not treat the infection in a timely manner. In some cases where a diagnosis of bacterial meningitis was missed and poor treatment outcomes followed, there may be compensation available to the injured patient.
Meningitis is a life-threatening condition with initial symptoms similar to flu
Acute bacterial meningitis is an infection of the tissues around the brain and/or the spinal cord which causes these tissues to swell. It can result in paralysis, brain damage or death if treatment is not started early. Bacterial meningitis is a serious condition requiring immediate medical attention and treatment. Unfortunately, the symptoms which accompany bacterial meningitis often closely resemble common flu. In both conditions, a person will often suddenly develop high fever, start vomiting and will experience headaches and loss of appetite. Physicians assessing patients who present with these symptoms may rely on the simple fact that common things happen more commonly and fail to consider more serious but unlikely causes of the patient’s symptoms and take steps to test for bacterial meningitis.
Young children and adults with weak immune systems are at a higher risk
Bacterial meningitis can happen to anyone; however, children under 2 years of age are particularly vulnerable to bacterial meningitis. This is because young children’s immune systems are not fully developed yet. Children who do not receive a complete set of vaccinations are even at a higher risk. Pregnant women are at a higher risk of being affected due to their increased risk of contracting listeria bacteria which may cause meningitis. People with compromised immune systems are at increased risk of bacterial meningitis as well. In rare cases, bacteria may be accidentally introduced into the patient’s body during surgery and spread to the spinal cord or the brain, causing bacterial meningitis.
Medical malpractice for missed or delayed diagnosis of meningitis
When a diagnosis of meningitis is missed or delayed and serious complications such as brain damage ensue, injured patients and their families face high costs of care and loss of income. Several cases have successfully been brought against physicians across Canada for failing to consider bacterial meningitis as a potential cause of their patients’ symptoms and initiating prompt treatment. If you or your loved one suffered an injury as a result of the delayed diagnosis of bacterial meningitis, do not hesitate to contact us for a consultation as to whether or not you have a viable malpractice case.