What are the focal neurologic signs of meningitis?

Updated: Jul 16, 2019
  • Author: Rodrigo Hasbun, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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Focal neurologic signs include isolated cranial nerve abnormalities (principally of cranial nerves III, IV, VI, and VII), which are present in 10-20% of patients. These result from increased intracranial pressure (ICP) or the presence of exudates encasing the nerve roots. Focal cerebral signs are present in 10-20% of patients and may develop as a result of ischemia from vascular inflammation and thrombosis.

Papilledema is a rare finding (< 1% of patients) that also indicates increased ICP, but it is neither sensitive nor specific: it occurs in only one third of meningitis patients with increased ICP and is present not only in meningitis but also in brain abscess and other disorders.

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