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Treatment of chronic meningitis depends on the underlying cause. Once a specific cause has been established, appropriate targeted therapy is initiated. When the cause is unknown, a decision must be made whether to employ empiric therapy while the diagnostic evaluation is ongoing. This decision is based on three factors: 1) the clinical status of the patient; 2) the most likely cause based on demographic, historical, examination, and initial laboratory data; and 3) the risk-to-benefit ratio of the proposed treatment regimen. Initial efforts focus on deciding whether the meningitis is infectious or noninfectious. When a decision is made to start empiric therapy, antituberculous treatment is generally given for several weeks to judge therapeutic response. Patients who do not respond to antituberculous therapy are next treated with broad-spectrum antibiotics for unusual bacterial pathogens such as Actinomyces (penicillin), the
Lyme disease spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi (ceftriaxone), Brucella (doxycycline plus rifampin), or Francisella tularensis (streptomycin plus gentamicin). Antifungal therapy is generally reserved for patients who are at particular risk for mycotic infection (owing to underlying immunosuppression or an extraneural infection site). Finally, empiric glucocorticoids are generally reserved for patients with consistently negative culture results and a probable noninfectious cause.