Pediatric Meningitis Misdiagnosis
Failure to Diagnose Meningitis in Children and Infants
Meningitis can affect people of all ages but this dangerous illness is particularly devastating when those impacted are children. If your child is afflicted with meningitis, it is absolutely critical for their doctor to quickly diagnose and treat the condition before it progresses. Misdiagnosed meningitis or delayed diagnosis can lead to permanent brain damage or even death. Tragically, meningitis is the most common illness subject to misdiagnosis in pediatrics according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). If your child suffered complications because a doctor failed to diagnose or misdiagnosed meningitis, you may have grounds for a pediatric malpractice lawsuit. These cases are highly complex but can result in significant compensation (damages) to account for the lifelong medical treatment often necessary for victims. Below is more information about meningitis symptoms, diagnosis, and how medical negligence can adversely affect children and infants suffering from meningitis.
What is Meningitis?
Meningitis is an inflammation of the protective membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. The condition occurs when these membranes become swollen or inflamed as a result of a virus, bacteria, or fungus. Viral meningitis is more common than bacterial meningitis in the U.S. and may resolve without treatment. On the other hand, bacterial meningitis can be deadly. Some of the bacteria that may cause bacterial meningitis are streptococcus pneumoniae or Group B Streptococcus. Doctors should test for Group B Streptococcus in pregnant women, as this bacteria can be transferred to a developing fetus through the placenta or bloodstream, or passed to an infant during delivery.
Symptoms of Meningitis in Infants and Children
Common symptoms associated with meningitis in children and infants are as follows:
- Stiff neck or unusual posture (arched neck and back)
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Confusion or cognitive changes
- Nausea or vomiting
- Agitation or irritability
- Poor feeding
- Breathing rapidly
- Bulging fontanelles in infants (may indicate brain swelling and increased intracranial pressure)
Meningitis Diagnosis and Treatment
In order to make an accurate diagnosis of meningitis, doctors must review the child’s medical history, conduct a thorough examination, identify symptoms, and order appropriate tests. The primary test to diagnose meningitis is a spinal tap. During this test, medical professionals use a lumbar puncture technique to test the spinal fluid, or cerebrospinal fluid. Other potential diagnostic tests that can be used to diagnose meningitis include chest x-rays, head CT scans, MRIs of the head, and blood cultures. If doctors fail to test for meningitis or diagnose a child with another condition, their medical negligence can lead to severe complications.
While viral meningitis is typically treated with rest, fluids, and over-the-counter medications, bacterial meningitis must be treated immediately with either intravenous antibiotics or corticosteroids. These medications are vital to combat the bacteria causing the illness and reduce the risk of serious complications. The antibiotics will vary depending on the specific strain of bacteria in a child’s case.
Meningitis Misdiagnosis in Pediatrics
There are a variety of ways a doctor can be found negligent as it relates to a pediatric meningitis case. Some examples of medical errors involving childhood meningitis include:
- Failing to test for bacterial meningitis
- Misdiagnosing a child with another condition such as the flu
- Diagnosing a case of bacterial meningitis as viral meningitis
- Failing to prescribe antibiotics
- Selecting the wrong antibiotics for the specific strain of bacteria
Complications of Misdiagnosed Bacterial Meningitis
It is essential for your child’s doctor to make an early, accurate diagnosis of meningitis and begin appropriate treatment immediately. Left untreated, bacterial meningitis can lead to permanent brain damage and impaired neurological function. Some of the potential complications of bacterial meningitis include:
- Swelling of the brain
- Accumulation of fluid between the brain and the skull
- Brain damage
- Vision loss
- Hearing loss
- Cerebral Palsy
- Developmental delays and learning disabilities
Contact Morristown NJ Pediatric Meningitis Attorneys to Discuss Your Child’s Case
If your child suffered complications related to misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of meningitis, speak with an experienced New Jersey pediatric meningitis attorney for more information about your rights. Contact us today at (866)-708-8617 for a free case evaluation or reach out online. We have office locations in Newark, NJ and New York City, which allows us to serve clients in Morristown, Parsippany, Clifton, Teaneck, Toms River, Hackensack, Woodbridge, and throughout New Jersey and New York.
Resource: Meningitis, MayoClinic