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Failure to Timely Diagnose Meningitis Results in Permanent Injury, Million Dollar Settlement | Port Orange Personal Injury Attorney

Failure to Timely Diagnose Meningitis Results in Permanent Injury, Million Dollar Settlement

A continuous pattern off unresolved complaints and discharges for a three-month-old baby should warrant a full review of the young patient’s situation by medical staff.

Unfortunately for this young infant, she was seen in the emergency department and her physician’s office fives times over nine days before she was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis. After diagnosis, she had a seizure and severe neurological injury, which left her blind and deaf. The baby now has a seizure disorder and a ventricular peritoneal shunt to drain her extra brain fluid into her abdomen where the fluid can be absorbed.

The girl’s mother took the previously healthy three-month-old to her primary care physician’s office after a two-day fever. She was discharged with the diagnosis of a viral illness. Two days later, she was taken to the emergency department where her mother reported fevers, runny nose and cough. The baby had a fever of 102.5, but otherwise appeared well. No lab tests were ordered and she was discharged home with another diagnosis of viral illness.

The mother returned to her doctor’s office five days later with the main complaint being lack of bowel movement and a fever of 101 the last two days. Her temperature was 104.9 in the office. Her neck was supple but there were no rashes. The doctor sent the baby to the emergency room.

The baby’s temperature was 103.6 in the emergency room where she was alert, but uncomfortable. Doctors observed her for two hours, then discharged her with Tylenol; her mother was told to call in a few days for the blood culture results. Post-discharge, her blood culture was found positive for streptococcus and the mother was informed.

The next day, the mother took her daughter to the doctor’ office where she was diagnosed with bacteremia, or bacteria in the blood. He gave the patient antibiotic and told the mother to increase her fluids and follow up in 24 hours or go to the emergency room if the symptoms became worse.

At 6 p.m., the mother brought her daughter to the emergency room due to inconsolable crying, gasping for air, left eye swelling and not eating or drinking. Her temperature was 102.6, heart rate 200, and respiratory rate 60. She was crying, irritable, with a rapid heart beat, skin patches and had a capillary refill time of five seconds.

She was given fluids and the medications ceftriaxone and vancomycin all via IV. She was finally given a lumbar puncture, which was positive for meningitis. The patient was admitted to the PICU, intubated, and had a seizure and severe neurological injury.

The patient’s mother filed a suit against the doctor and the emergency room physician, claiming that a failure to administer prophylactic antibiotics and perform a lumbar puncture delayed the diagnosis of bacterial meningitis and opportunity for treatment. The case was settled in excess of $1 million.

The mother had a successful medical malpractice claim based on the following factors:

Full workup was missing: Multiple visits with the same complaint warrant a more thorough review. Doctors should have performed a more thorough workup on the child.

Earlier diagnosis and treatment would have spared the child serious injury: The child could have been saved the injuries if the complete fever workup had been performed and antibiotics had been given.

No documentation of a neurologic exam or lumbar puncture: With a persistent fever of unknown cause, meningitis must be considered. Persistent fever without a source and possible bacterial should receive antibiotics until meningitis is ruled out.

No admission to the hospital for bacteremia: Bacteria in the blood of young infant requires a lumbar puncture to look for a source and admission to the hospital for IV antibiotics until the cause of the positive blood culture is determined.

For more on medical issues, see the library of articles by Daytona Beach medical malpractice attorney.


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