Meningitis

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Resident
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Guide
Meningitis
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Meninges of the central nervous system: dura mater, arachnoid, and pia mater.

Meningitis Main Page

Patient Information

Overview

Causes

Classification

Viral Meningitis
Bacterial Meningitis
Fungal Meningitis

Differential Diagnosis

Diagnosis

For patient information click here.

Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Seyedmahdi Pahlavani, M.D. [2]
Synonyms and Keywords: Leptomeningitis, Inflammation of meninges

Overview

The meninges (singular meninx) is the system of membranes which envelop the central nervous system. The meninges consist of three layers: the dura mater, the arachnoid mater, and the pia mater. The primary function of the meninges and of the cerebrospinal fluid is to protect the central nervous system. Meningitis is the inflammation of these protective membranes.
Meningitis may have been described in the Middle Ages, but it was first accurately identified by the Swiss Vieusseux (a scientific-literary association) during an outbreak in Geneva, Switzerland in 1805. In 1661, Thomas Willis first described the inflammation of meninges and an epidemic of meningitis. In the 17th century, Robert Whytt provided a detailed explanation of tuberculous meningitis and its stages. This was further elaborated by John Cheyne in the same century. Meningococcal meningitis was than described by Gaspard Vieusseux, Andre Matthey in Geneva and Elisa North in Massachussetes.
Meningitis may develop in response to a number of causes, including infectious agents (bacteria, viruses, fungi, or other organisms) or non-infectious causes, such as systemic illnesses that may involve CNS (e.g. neoplasms or connective tissue diseases, such as sarcoidosis, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and wegener's) or certain drugs (e.g. nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs, intravenous immunoglobulin, intrathecal agents, and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole). While some forms of meningitis are mild and resolve spontaneously (e.g. viral meningitis), meningitis is a potentially serious condition owing to the proximity of the inflammation to the brain and spinal cord. The potential for serious neurologic damage or even death necessitates prompt medical attention and evaluation. The common presenting features of meningitis are, fever, neck stiffness and headache. Other symptoms include, photophobia (inability to tolerate bright light), phonophobia (inability to tolerate loud noises), irritability, altered mental status (in small children), and seizure. Physical examination of meningitis may vary in adults and infants. In adults, physical examination findings may include bradycardia, disorientation, papilledema, neck stiffness, positive brudzinski's and kernig's sign. However, petechial rash, bulging fontanelle, neck stiffness, jaundice, and convulsions are physical examination findings in infants. Diagnosis is based on clinical findings and CSF analysis. Treatment options are based on etiology and varies from supportive care and observing the patient (viral meningitis) to antibiotic therapy for bacterial meningitis or chemotherapy and/or irradiation for neoplastic meningitis.[1][2][3][4][5][6][4][7][8]

Causes


Etiology Common causes Less common causes
Bacterial
Viral
Fungal
  • Arthrographis spp[18]
Spirochetal --
Protozoal and Helminthic
Noninfectious conditions


Classification

Meningitis could be classified to two main groups based on etiology:

  • Infectious
  • Non-infectious

Infectious meningitis

Infectious meningitis may be classified as the following algorithm based on chronicity of symptoms.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Infectious Meningitis
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Viral
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Bacterial
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Fungal
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Acute
 
Chronic
 
Recurrent
 
 
Acute
 
Subacute
 
Chronic
 
 
Recurrent


Non-infectious meningitis

Systemic illnesses, such as malignancies and connective tissue diseases (e.g. sarcoidosis, SLE, and wegener's) may involve meninges in their course and present as chronic meningitis.

Certain drugs may cause meningeal irritation and resemble as meningitis including:

Differential diagnosis

Diseases Symptoms Physical Examination Past medical history Diagnostic tests Other Findings
Headache LOC Motor weakness Abnormal sensory Motor Deficit Sensory deficit Speech difficulty Gait abnormality Cranial nerves CT /MRI CSF Findings Gold standard test
Meningitis + - - - - + + - - History of fever and malaise - Leukocytes,

Protein

↓ Glucose

CSF analysis[28] Fever, neck

rigidity

Encephalitis + + +/- +/- - - + +/- + History of fever and malaise + Leukocytes, ↓ Glucose CSF PCR Fever, seizures, focal neurologic abnormalities
Brain tumor[29] + - - - + + + - + Weight loss, fatigue + Cancer cells[30] MRI Cachexia, gradual progression of symptoms
Hemorrhagic stroke + + + + + + + + - Hypertension + - CT scan without contrast[31][32] Neck stiffness
Subdural hemorrhage + + + + + - - - + Trauma, fall + Xanthochromia[33] CT scan without contrast[31][32] Confusion, dizziness, nausea, vomiting
Neurosyphilis[34][35] + - + + + + - + - STIs + Leukocytes and protein CSF VDRL-specifc

CSF FTA-Ab -sensitive[36]

Blindness, confusion, depression,

Abnormal gait

Complex or atypical migraine + - + + - - + - - Family history of migraine - - Clinical assesment Presence of aura, nausea, vomiting
Hypertensive encephalopathy + + - - - - + + - Hypertension + - Clinical assesment Delirium, cortical blindness, cerebral edema, seizure
Wernicke’s encephalopathy - + - - - + + + + History of alcohal abuse - - Clinical assesment and lab findings Ophthalmoplegia, confusion
CNS abscess + + - - + + + - - History of drug abuse, endocarditis, immunosupression + leukocytes, glucose and protien MRI is more sensitive and specific High grade fever, fatigue,nausea, vomiting
Drug toxicity - + - + + + - + - - - - Drug screen test Lithium, Sedatives, phenytoin, carbamazepine
Conversion disorder + + + + + + + + History of emotional stress - - Diagnosis of exclusion Tremors, blindness, difficulty swallowing
Metabolic disturbances (electrolyte imbalance, hypoglycemia) - + + + + + - - + - - Hypoglycemia, hypo and hypernatremia, hypo and hyperkalemia Depends on the cause Confusion, seizure, palpitations, sweating, dizziness, hypoglycemia
Multiple sclerosis exacerbation - - + + - + + + + History of relapses and remissions + CSF IgG levels

(monoclonal bands)

Clinical assesment and MRI [37] Blurry vision, urinary incontinence, fatigue
Seizure + + - - + + - - + Previous history of seizures - Mass lesion Clinical assesment and EEG [38] Confusion, apathy, irritability,

Diagnosis

Diagnosis of meningitis, is based on clinical presentation in combination with CSF analysis. CSF analysis has major role for diagnosis and rule out other possibilities. The following table summarizes the CSF findings in different types of meningitis.[39][40][41][42][3]

Cerebrospinal fluid level Normal level Bacterial meningitis[42] Viral meningitis[42] Fungal meningitis Tuberculous meningitis[43] Neoplastic meningitis[39]
Cells/ul < 5 >300 10-1000 10-500 50-500 >4
Cells Lymphocyte Leukocyte > Lymphocyte Lymphocyte > Leukocyte Lymphocyte > Leukocyte Lymphocyte > Leukocyte Lymphocyte > Leukocyte
Total protein (mg/dl) 45-60 Typically 100-500 Normal or slightly high High Typically 100-200 >50
Glucose ratio (CSF/plasma)[40] > 0.5 < 0.3 > 0.6 <0.3 < 0.5 <0.5
Lactate (mmols/l)[41] < 2.1 > 2.1 < 2.1 >3.2 > 2.1 >2.1
Others Intra-cranial pressure (ICP) = 6-12 (cm H2O) CSF gram stain, CSF culture, CSF bacterial antigen PCR of HSV-DNA, VZV CSF gram stain, CSF india ink PCR of TB-DNA CSF tumour markers such as alpha fetoprotein, CEA

References

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