Lack of cardinal symptoms of meningitis in a hospitalized patient with chronic schizophrenia: lessons to be learned
Gen Hosp Psychiatry
OBJECTIVE: There are prior reports describing a diagnostic delay in medical emergencies in patients with schizophrenia. To our knowledge, this is the first case report demonstrating the risk of diagnostic delay of acute meningitis due to reduced pain perception as well as other factors related to schizophrenia and its treatment. METHOD: We report a case of meningitis in a patient suffering from chronic schizophrenia and poor treatment response despite high doses of antipsychotics. Potential difficulties and pitfalls when suspecting or diagnosing meningitis as a physical comorbidity in patients with schizophrenia are discussed. RESULTS: A 33-year-old man with chronic and treatment-resistant schizophrenia developed acute meningitis. The definite diagnosis was delayed because the cardinal symptoms other than fever were not clearly elicited by physical examination. The characteristic symptoms of meningitis were concealed by reduced pain perception, rigidity due to the administration of antipsychotics, disorganized thinking and potentially diminished communication with health care professionals as commonly seen in patients with schizophrenia. CONCLUSION: Meningitis should not be dismissed as a possibility in patients with fever of unknown origin just because a patient with schizophrenia does not present with cardinal features of meningitis other than fever.
School of Medicine