Physicians are entrusted with the well-being of their patients. But sometimes even doctors make mistakes. These mistakes may sometimes be relatively minor. However there are times that they can be the cause of permanent injuries or even death. These medical mistakes are more commonly called medical malpractice.
The Institute of Medicine has said that medical malpractice is one of the top ten causes of death in the US.
Medical mistakes such as these, which can change lives for the worse and even result in death, are especially difficult for a parent to deal with when it happens to their child.
One of the most common forms of medical malpractice occurs when doctors fail to diagnose bacterial meningitis amongst children.
It is especially important that a doctor does not miss the signs of bacterial meningitis. That's because a delay in diagnosis can significantly reduce the chances that a person will survive. However, if bacterial meningitis is detected early and aggressively treated it can be cured.
What is Meningitis?
Meningitis is the inflammation of the protective membranes that cover the spinal cord and brain. It could be caused by bacteria, viruses, other microorganisms, and on occasion by certain drugs.
Meningitis is classified as a medical emergency because the inflammation is so close to the brain and spinal cord that it can be life-threatening.
The kinds of bacteria that cause bacterial meningitis vary by the age of the victim. In newborns up to 3 months of age, and premature babies, the most common causes are group B streptococci. Children under five are often affected by Haemophilus influenza type B (in countries that do not offer the pneumococcal vaccine). Older children are usually affected by Streptococcus pneumonia and Neisseria meningitides.
Ten percent of the people who are afflicted with bacterial meningitis die. Many others suffer from permanent damages that include hearing loss, brain damage, and learning disabilities.
One of the main reasons that this can happen is because too many doctors do not properly diagnose and treat the condition. Doctors should, at the first sign of the disease, request a spinal tap in order to confirm their diagnosis. If they do not order a spinal tap it could result in their being liable for malpractice.
What are the Symptoms of Bacterial Meningitis?
The preliminary symptoms of meningitis include headache, a stiff neck and high fever. It may take only several hours or up to one to two days for these symptoms to develop.
Additional symptoms might include vomiting, nausea, discomfort when looking at bright lights, sleepiness, and confusion.
However headache, fever, and neck stiffness may be absent or difficult to detect in small infants.