Clinical Reasoning: A Teenager With Chronic Meningitis-Does Occam's Razor Apply?

Neurology. 2023 Apr 25;100(17):828-835. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000206783. Epub 2023 Feb 6.


A 14-year-old girl presented with subacute onset headache, fever, and vomiting and was managed initially with antibiotics for suspected bacterial meningitis. Her symptoms further evolved over the next few weeks with systemic signs and symptoms favoring chronic meningitis with raised intracranial pressure. After the etiologic workup was unrevealing, she was started on empirical antituberculous therapy. After a period of partial improvement, symptoms recurred with a new-onset focal seizure. Her imaging findings evolved from features suggestive of focal leptomeningitis to multifocal heterogeneous enhancing cortical and subcortical lesions with hemorrhagic foci, leading to brain biopsy that confirmed diagnosis. Our case highlights the utility of diagnostic biopsy in patients with "chronic meningitis" in uncertain cases rather than confining the approach to the law of parsimony. The decision to initiate empirical therapy in chronic meningitis should be considered on a case-by-case basis and take into account factors, such as clinical examination findings, immune status, recent exposures, and potential risks of treatment. Atypical MRI features should lower the threshold for meningocortical biopsy when indicated.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Clinical Reasoning
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Meningitis*