The Importance of Prompt Diagnosis of Meningitis

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One of the major problems with this illness is the speed with which it can take hold, which makes all the more important for prompt diagnosis to take place.

I have had the misfortune of being instructed by parents of seriously disabled children, where there is a real concern, that the GP, who was their first point of contact, has not taken the reports of a seriously ill child seriously enough, and has failed to ensure that they receive urgent hospital attention in time to prevent them form having life-changing disabilities, or even from death. Meningococcal septicaemia if untreated can result in profound deafness, loss of limbs, brain damage and death. The problem with diagnosis is not limited to GPs. I have acted for families where out-of-hours and A&E departments have been involved in the patient's treatment, but have failed to recognise the symptoms and to refer them for urgent treatment. Meningitis is not a disease restricted to young children, and young adults are at particular risk, with outbreaks in University accommodation being regularly reported. Essentially the infection causes inflammation of the tissues lining the brain. The toxins released into the blood stream can break down the walls of blood vessels leading to the well publicised petechial rash under the skin, and sepsis. Unchecked, this can have catastrophic consequences.

The most common factors to look out for depend to some extent upon the age of the patient, but helpful information can be found here. The progress of this illness can be extremely rapid and the importance of medical professionals recognising the early signs cannot be emphasised enough. The time for successful medical intervention is often short but can prevent significant and life changing disability.

Further information on this illness and the help that is available to those who have been affected can be found here.

Kym Provan

Senior Solicitor - Clinical Negligence team 

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