Meningitis is a feared CNS infection, especially in young children. If meningitis is not quickly diagnosed and managed, it can lead to serious brain damage causing lifelong disability. Treating meningitis is challenging, and in many instances, clinicians will have tried their hardest to manage the patient. However, errors can occur, and notes may be missed. If this happens, having an experienced medical negligence lawyer in your corner, ready to fight for your meningitis claim, can make all the difference.

What is Meningitis?

Meningitis is an infection of the protective membranes (meninges) that surround your CNS (the brain and spinal cord). Meningitis can be contracted through a bacteria, a virus or a fungal organism, and can also refer to meningococcal septicaemia.

What are the types of Meningitis?

Bacterial Meningitis (caused due to the following organisms)

  • Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus).
  • Neisseria meningitidis (meningococcus).
  • Haemophilus influenza (Haemophilus).
  • Listeria monocytogenes (listeria).

Viral Meningitis

Fungal Meningitis

What are the symptoms of Meningitis?

Symptoms of meningitis have a sudden onset and can include:

  • Pyrexia (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or above
  • malaise (feeling of being sick)
  • a headache
  • a non-blanching rash – does not fade when a glass is rolled over it (not present in all cases)
  • neck stiffness
  • photophobia (a dislike for bright lights)
  • unresponsiveness or drowsiness
  • fits (seizures)

How is Meningitis Managed?

It is estimated that every 1 out of 10 cases of bacterial meningitis can prove to be fatal. If a diagnosis of bacterial meningitis is made — or even there is a suspicion of the diagnosis — the doctors need to start intravenous (IV) antibiotics as soon as possible. Supportive treatment like fluids should also be started to replace those lost to fever, vomiting, sweating, and poor appetite. Bacterial meningitis requires immediate hospitalisation. Early diagnosis and management will prevent brain damage and fatalities.

There’s no one specific antibiotic for bacterial meningitis. It depends on the bacteria suspected/found in the the patient. A lumbar puncture (also known as a spinal tap) is done to take a small sample cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) from the patient. This is then sent to the laboratory for examination under the microscope. The laboratory exam of the CSF fluid is often enough to indicate whether the soucre of the meningitis is bacterial, viral or even tuberculous. Culture of this fluid will result in the definite diagnosis of the causative agent, but until then, the patient needs to be started on the antibiotic cover with broad-spectrum antibiotics.

Most cases of viral meningitis resolve within 7 to 10 days. Some people might need to be hospitalised, although children typically recover at home if they’re not too ill. Only supportive treatment is needed like rest, fluids, and over-the-counter pain medicine.

What are the long-term complications of meningitis?

Most patients with bacterial meningitis who are quickly identified and managed will make a full recovery, although some could be left with serious long-term complications. If the bacteria crosses through to the central nervous system, long term problems tend to be neurological, and if it passes into the cardiovascular system and into the blood (septicaemia) then this can give rise to sepsis/septic shock, often resulting in amputation or multiorgan damage as the blood supply to limbs and essential organs is compromised. If bacterial meningitis is not managed timely, this can have a devastating impact and cause long-term problems such as:

  • vision loss or hearing loss (partial or total)
  • problems with memory and concentration
  • recurrent seizures due to permanent scarring in the brain tissue (epilepsy)
  • movement, coordination, and balance problems (cerebellar damage)
  • loss of limbs – amputation in some cases becomes inevitable

Hearing loss is the most common complication, particularly in infants with pneumococcal meningitis.  This type of injury occurs early in the inflammatory process and cannot always be prevented, even with prompt diagnosis and management.  Brain damage is another complication leading to cerebral palsy, paralysis, learning difficulties and emotional and behavioural difficulties. Psychological problems tend to present very subtly in young children (like being clingy or throwing temper tantrums), which then become more apparent as they age.

Do you have a claim?

What qualifies as medical negligence when it comes to Meningitis management?

When identified early and treated appropriately, it is possible to make a full recovery. However, if left untreated, the condition can lead to life-changing complications, including brain damage and amputation – fatalities in extreme cases. Thus it is crucial that all care should be of a high standard.

Negligence in managing Meningitis can be attributed to NHS or private practitioners, including paramedics, your GP, or a hospital. It is crucial to note that not all cases of delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis prove medical negligence. The early symptoms of meningitis can mimic common cold or flu, and a responsible medical practitioner might not diagnose the condition even after making all the reasonable investigations.

Negligence is when a claimant has evidence that the medical practitioner fell short of reasonable medical standards in taking all the appropriate steps to detect and treat the condition. Having a team who specialises in medical negligence and who has experience of claiming compensation in such situations, thus, makes all the difference. Meningitis compensation claims can result in the following situations:

  • Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of meningitis resulting in injuries such as hearing loss or amputation
  • Failure to order appropriate diagnostic tests or to correctly interpret test results, leading to misdiagnosing the type of meningitis
  • Ineffective or inappropriate treatment of meningitis
  • Failure to accurately monitor or act on the deterioration in the patient’s condition
  • Delay or failure in recognising the signs and diagnosing or suspecting meningitis
  • Delay or failure to refer or admit the patient to the hospital
  • Failure to urgently provide or delay in treatment with IV antibiotics
  • Failure to monitor a pregnant patient with group B streptococcus (GBS)
  • Failure to administer antibiotics to a pregnant patient with group B streptococcus (GBS)
  • Failure to identify and manage a pregnant woman with a GBS urine infection
  • Failure to manage a woman whose water broke before 37 weeks of gestation
  • Failure to monitor a baby with a high risk of developing GBS infection

What do you need to know before making a negligence claim for meningitis treatment?

As claimant to argue that wrong treatment was administered to you or your child, you have to understand how meningitis was contracted, establish the causative agent involved, since this dictates what kind of treatment the patient needed, and know what was the timescale during which the infection progressed, and the point where treatment could no longer make a difference to the patient.

How can Meningitis compensation claims help you?

Meningitis is life-changing, even when appropriately managed in a timely manner. However, if a diagnosis is missed or management delayed, the seemingly avoidable consequences can be catastrophic for the patient. Thousands of families have lost loved ones to meningitis, and many survivors are left with permanent disabilities such as brain damage, hearing loss, amputation, epilepsy, and learning difficulties.

As meningitis claims specialists, we can help you secure maximum compensation and rehabilitation costs for survivors living with the long-term effects of the disease following negligent meningitis medical care. We can help you obtain early financial assistance for recovery, rehabilitation and rebuild your life.

Please Note: Medical Solicitors handle meningitis claims involving healthcare providers in England and Wales. We will be happy to extend a helping hand if your case is located in either of these regions. Unfortunately, we do not handle meningitis cases outside of England and Wales.

Why Choose Us?

We’ve handled many different types of medical negligence cases and provided expert advice for over 30 years.

  • We offer FREE, no obligation legal advice all throughout
  • Our processes are hassle free & we handle all the paperwork
  • We won't charge you a penny until your case has been settled

Our surgery claims expert:

Caroline Moore

Managing Director/Head of Sheffield Office