Diagnosis of Meningitis

Diagnosis for meningitis is not very easy as the symptoms are not always clearly discernible and may often be confused with other more mundane conditions like the flu. However, once you do happen to notice any unusual signs or symptoms that have not subsided, consult your doctor immediately. It should not be taken lightly until the doctor makes a diagnosis.

Diagnostic tests for meningitis include the following:

  • Blood Cultures: Blood of the patient is drawn from the veins and sent to the laboratory to be examined for the presence of bacteria. Additionally, stains (Gram’s stain) may be added to the blood sample and it will be examined under the microscope.
  • Imaging: CT scans and X-rays of the head, sinus cavities, and chest are done so as to reveal any inflammation and swelling.
  • Spinal Tap (also known as lumbar puncture): A sure shot way of diagnosing meningitis is through a lumbar puncture. Simply put, a lumbar puncture is a procedure where cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is extracted from the base of the spinal cord. This fluid is then sent for tests and analysis. The presence of a high number of white blood cells and protein, as well as a low glucose levels in the CSF are indicative of meningitis.
If meningitis is the result of other diseases such as cancer and so on, it may validate the administration of additional tests. 
Frequently asked questions
  1. Justine Miranda, Allan R. Tunkel, Strategies and New Developments in the Management of Bacterial Meningitis, Infectious Disease Clinics of North America, Volume 23, Issue 4, December 2009, Pages 925-943, ISSN 0891-5520, 10.1016/j.idc.2009.06.014.
  2. Charles S Bryan, Kenneth L Reynolds, Linda Crout, Promptness of antibiotic therapy in acute bacterial meningitis, Annals of Emergency Medicine, Volume 15, Issue 5, May 1986, Pages 544-547, ISSN 0196-0644, 10.1016/S0196-0644(86)80990-8.
  3. Swati Waghdhare, Ashwini Kalantri, Rajnish Joshi, Shriprakash Kalantri, Accuracy of physical signs for detecting meningitis: A hospital-based diagnostic accuracy study, Clinical Neurology and Neurosurgery, Volume 112, Issue 9, November 2010, Pages 752-757, ISSN 0303-8467, 10.1016/j.clineuro.2010.06.003.