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A family physician or a pediatrician can carry out a physical examination, some diagnostic tests and study the medical history to diagnose meningitis. Physical examination includes checking for signs of infection around the head, ears, throat and the skin along the spine. Diagnostic tests include:
Throat Culture: A throat culture can identify the bacterium that causes throat pain, neck pain and headache in the patients but would not be helpful in identifying the pathogenic microorganisms in the spinal fluid.
Radiological Studies: Imaging techniques such as X-rays and Computerized tomography (CT) scans of chest, skull and sinuses can reveal inflammation and help the doctor detect infections associated with meningitis.
Lumbar Puncture: Analysis of the sampled cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) collected with the help of a procedure known as a spinal tap is a definitive diagnostic procedure to detect meningitis. Low glucose levels, high white blood cell (WBC) count and increased protein in the CSF are some of the indicators of meningitis. Analysis of CSF may also reveal the bacterium causing illness.
Polymerase Chain Reaction Analysis: Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification test may also help identify the causes of meningitis (19).
Article by Kona Vishnu, MS
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