Testing & Diagnosis for Meningitis in Children

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Contact the Division of Infectious Diseases

How does a doctor know that it’s meningitis?

In addition to a complete medical history, physical exam, and blood tests, your child’s doctor may need to perform other procedures to confirm that your child has meningitis, including:

Lumbar puncture (spinal tap)

  • A special needle is placed into your child’s lower back into the spinal canal.
  • It measures the pressure in the spinal canal and brain.
  • A small amount of cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) can be removed and sent for testing to determine if there is an infection or other problems.
  • We don’t recommend this if your child is very ill.

Computerized tomography scan

  • also called a CT or CAT scan
  • uses a combination of x-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional images (often called slices), both horizontally and vertically, of the body
  • shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs.
  • more detailed than general x-rays
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