A study hopes to speed up therapy for possible meningitis patients by identifying symptoms that indicate whether treatment will be well received.
Lumbar puncture is the common treatment for suspected meningitis patients; however, because some patients may not respond well to this therapy, doctors often perform a computer tomography (CT) scan first, which identifies if the patient has brain abnormalities that could make lumbar puncture result in brain injury. To decrease the need for CT scans and decrease delays before therapy, a study identifies symptoms that indicate if patients would respond well to lumbar puncture.
Researchers from Connecticut tested various symptoms in 301 patients with suspected meningitis before they received a CT scan. After CT scans were taken, researchers found 24 percent of patients had abnormal results. The presence of an abnormality in these patients was associated with being at least 50 years old, having an immune system that was not functioning normally, a history of central nervous system disease and having had a seizure within one week of doctor visit. In addition, researchers found abnormal CT results were associated with the following neurological problems:
Abnormal levels of consciousness
Abnormal visual fields
Arm or leg drift
Inability to answer two consecutive questions correctly or to follow two consecutive commands
Along with finding an association between these neurological problems and abnormal CT results, researchers found many patients who had normal CT scans did not exhibit any of these neurological symptoms. Thus, researchers conclude symptoms in adults with suspected meningitis can be used to identify those who are unlikely to have abnormal CT results and, likewise, those who will respond well to lumbar puncture. They hope to decrease the need for unnecessary CT scans, which take time and delay treatment.