Meningitis Treatment

Meningitis treatment depends on the type of meningitis the patient is suffering from.


Treatment of Bacterial Meningitis

Bacterial meningitis is caused by infection by a number of different types of bacteria. For all of these causative organisms the primary treatment is antibiotic medications which kill the organisms or slow their growth. Generally a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) is performed to obtain cerebrospinal fluid for analysis. This helps to both confirm the diagnosis of bacterial meningitis and to isolate the organism so that it can be identified. This aids in tailoring the antibiotic regimen so that the ideal drug is being used for the type of bacteria which is present.

Because bacterial meningitis tends to progress rapidly and is life-threatening, patients are generally hospitalized and started on a course of intravenous antibiotics until the infection is under control and the patient is recovering. The specific type of antibiotics and the duration of treatment can vary depending on the clinical situation. Prompt treatment with antibiotics early in the course of diseases is absolutely necessary to help prevent the permanent and potentially lethal effects of meningitis.

Rarely, severe bacterial meningitis can lead to hydrocephalus. In this case, insertion of a ventriculostomy or, ultimately, a ventriculoperitoneal shunt may be required to divert the cerebrospinal fluid.


Viral Meningitis Treatment

Viral meningitis is generally a milder disease than bacterial meningitis. While bacterial infection generally progresses to coma and death without treatment, viral meningitis is generally self-limited and more minor in nature. If lumbar puncture (spinal tap) fails to demonstrate bacteria as the cause of the meningitis, patients are generally treated conservatively with supportive care, primarily rest. The disease generally resolves within a couple weeks and leaves no residual neurological dysfunction. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses and therefore they are not indicated in the treatment of viral meningitis.


Fungal Meningitis Treatment

A less common cause of meningitis is fungal infection. Antifungal medications are generally used to treat these severe infections. Occasionally, a catheter is inserted into the ventricles (the fluid spaces inside the brain) to deliver antifungal medication directly into the cerebrospinal fluid. Additionally, hydrocephalus is more common with some forms of fungal meningitis and therefore these patients may require a ventriculostomy or, ultimately, a ventriculoperitoneal shunt.

Please note that the care of any individual patient with meningitis may vary considerably depending on many factors. Each patient should consult their own treating physicians regarding the recommended management options in their particular case.



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Important Note: This site is not intended to offer medical advice. Every patient is different, and only your personal physician can help to counsel you about what is best for your situation. What we offer is general reference information about various disorders and treatments for your education.

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