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Blood and urine cultures
Lumbar puncture, ceftriaxone, vancomycin, and methylprednisolone
Vancomycin and ceftriaxone
Vancomycin, ceftriaxone, and dexamethasone
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This patient with fever, headache, signs of meningeal irritation, and a purpuric rash likely has bacterial meningitis. The most appropriate initial step in management is a lumbar puncture as well as ceftriaxone, vancomycin, and methylprednisolone.Meningitis classically presents with fever, neck stiffness or headache, and altered mental status. Specific physical exam findings that can suggest the diagnosis include meningeal signs such as a positive Kernig sign (inability to extend the knee while the hip is flexed) and Brudzinski sign (flexion of the neck results in flexion of lower extremities). Common causative agents include Streptococcus pneumoniae and Neisseria meningitidis. The latter of which is associated with the purpuric rash seen in this patient. The best initial step in management is a lumbar puncture followed promptly by IV broad spectrum antibiotics. Once the diagnosis/infectious agent is confirmed, the antibiotic agents can be refined. Other early steps in management include early blood cultures and fluid resuscitation. Steroids should be given in the setting of suspected Waterhouse-Friderichsen syndrome and concern for adrenal failure.Linder et. al review meningococcal meningitis. They discuss the pathophysiology, clinical manifestations, and diagnosis. They describe the association of purpuric rash with meningococcal infection, and note that this is indicative of disseminated intravascular coagulation. Figure A. demonstrates a purpuric rash over the lower extremities, which is classically associated with meningococcal meningitis. However, this can occur with meningitis or bacteremia from other infectious agents, as it is indicative of disseminated intravascular coagulation.Incorrect Answers:Answer 1: Blood and urine cultures would be appropriate initial management for a fever of unknown origin and in this patient. Early antibiotics must be given as well to reduce mortality and improve outcomes.Answer 3: MRI brain would not be appropriate in this setting. While CNS imaging is sometimes indicated prior to lumbar puncture if signs of increased intracranial pressure such as papilledema are present, CT imaging is typically preferred. Time required to obtain MR imaging is prohibitive and would delay definitive care for this patient.Answer 4: Vancomycin and ceftriaxone are an appropriate initial antibiotic regimen for meningitis in children and adults. However, steroids are often added empirically. Lumbar puncture should be performed prior to administration of antibiotics (if possible) to avoid sterilization of the CSF.Answer 5: Vancomycin, ceftriaxone, and prednisone are an appropriate initial regimen for meningitis in adults. Steroids have been shown to reduce inflammation and prevent neurologic sequelae. However, lumbar puncture should be performed prior to administration of antibiotics if possible to avoid sterilization of the CSF. Also, IV steroids are preferred rather than oral in ill patients.Bullet Summary:The best initial step in management for meningitis is a lumbar puncture followed by broad-spectrum antibiotics and steroids.
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