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Meningitis - staphylococcal

Definition

Staphylococcal meningitis is a bacterial infection of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord (meninges).

See also:

Alternative Names

Staphylococcal meningitis

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Staphylococcal meningitis is caused by Staphylococcus bacteria. When it is caused by Staphylococcus aureus or Staphylococcus epidermidis bacteria, it usually develops as a complication of a surgical procedure, or as an infection spread by the blood from another site.

Risk factors include:

  • Infections of heart valves
  • Past infection of the brain
  • Past meningitis due to spinal fluid shunts
  • Recent brain surgery
  • Trauma

Symptoms

Symptoms usually come on quickly, and may include:

Other symptoms that can occur with this disease:

  • Agitation
  • Bulging fontanelles
  • Decreased consciousness
  • Poor feeding or irritability in children
  • Rapid breathing
  • Unusual posture, with the head and neck arched backwards (opisthotonos)

Signs and tests

Physical examination will usually show:

  • Fast heart rate
  • Fever
  • Mental status changes
  • Stiff neck

For any patient who is suspected of having meningitis, it is important to perform a lumbar puncture ("spinal tap"), in which spinal fluid (known as cerebrospinal fluid, or CSF) is collected for testing.

Tests may include:

Treatment

Treatment with antibiotics should be started as soon as possible. Ceftriaxone is one of the most commonly used antibiotics. Nafcillin is also an effective treatment for staphylococcal meningitis.

If the antibiotic is not working and the health care provider suspects antibiotic resistance, vancomycin may be used.

Often, treatment will include a search for, and removal of, possible sources of bacteria in the body. These include shunts or artificial heart valves.

Support Groups

Expectations (prognosis)

Early treatment improves the outcome. However, 3 - 5% of patients do not survive. Young children and adults over age 50 have the highest risk of death.

Staphylococcal meningitis often improves more quickly, with better results, if the source of the infection is removed. The source may include shunts, hardware in joints, or artificial heart valves.

Complications

Calling your health care provider

Call the local emergency number (such as 911) or go to an emergency room if you suspect meningitis in a young child who has the following symptoms:

  • Feeding problems
  • High-pitched cry
  • Irritability
  • Persistent, unexplained fever

Call the local emergency number if you develop any of the serious symptoms listed above. Meningitis can quickly become a life-threatening illness.

Prevention

In high-risk people, taking preventive antibiotics before diagnostic or surgical procedures may help reduce the risk. Discuss this with your doctor.

References

Swartz MN. Meningitis: bacterial, viral, and other. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007: chap 437.

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    Review Date: 9/15/2010

    Review By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; Jatin M. Vyas, PhD, MD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

    The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2010 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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