For Patients Who Received Tainted Steroid Injections, An MRI Screening Could Detect Fungal Meningitis Outbreak
Last October, over 300 patients in several states discovered that they had received spinal steroid injections tainted with fungal meningitis. The fungal meningitis outbreak was traced back to a compounding pharmacy in New England, which was shut down.
The injection was a steroid called methylprednisolone, which, according to FDA reports, was visibly tainted with fungal particles. The tainted steroid injections were sold to hospitals and other medical facilities all over the country.
However, not all of the patients who received the injections sought treatment. Many did not have symptoms of fungal meningitis initially, so they did not seek a screening at a hospital.
Now, researchers have determined a better way to uncover more victims of the fungal meningitis outbreak to prevent deaths and debilitating injuries – an MRI of the injection site.
The researchers screened 172 people who had received the tainted steroid injections, and found fungal meningitis in 36 of the patients. This included 13 new cases, from people who did not suffer any fungal meningitis symptoms. Five of the new cases had a confirmed fungal infection, and seven required surgery to treat the fluid buildup.
According to reports, 58 people died because of the fungal meningitis outbreak last year.
“The clinical symptoms can be subtle, and it can be difficult for patients and providers to distinguish from chronic pain,” said Dr. Anurag Malani, who led the new study at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “It’s important to recognize that we continue to see infections, as recently as the end of April.” This is more than six months after the last steorid injection, Malani said. He says that he suspects there are still victims of the fungal meningitis outbreak who are undiagnosed.
The problem with diagnosing fungal meningitis is that the steroid injections were used to treat chronic back pain, or back pain related to other conditions – so many of the symptoms of fungal meningitis are similar to symptoms of the original problem, he said.
However, Malani said that “[t]he use of MRI screening detected spine and near-spine infection earlier in these patients, allowing us to provide medical and surgical care earlier.”
The study was published in the June 19th edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The Fungal Meningitis Outbreak from Last Fall
Fungal meningitis is a rare disease characterized by the severe inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord. A back injection with tainted Methylprednisolone Acetate would put any contaminant contained in the drug in direct contact with that lining.
Although the largest fungal meningitis outbreak originated in at the New England Compounding Pharmacy, many compounding pharmacies, including some in South Carolina, have had similar problems with tainted batches of drugs. Compounding pharmacies exist on a grey legal line, in which they theoretically make strong injectable drugs for specific patients, but actually do so in large batches. Although this process is convenient for hospitals, it has caused serious problems for patients who receive tainted injections and suffer painful, debilitating side effects.
Signs and symptoms of fungal meningitis may include:
photophobia (sensitivity to light)
altered mental state
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), several of the cases of fungal meningitis linked to the outbreak have led to strokes. Telltale symptoms of the disease typically begin to show in patients between one and four weeks after patients receive the injections.
The Strom Law Firm Can Help with Personal Injury Cases Related to the Fungal Meningitis Outbreak
If you or a loved one have been injured, harmed, or killed by a medical product such as a drug or device, you may be entitled to file a personal injury lawsuit. Defective medical devices and drugs can hurt you to such a great extent that you are unable to work. You will face mounting medical bills as you seek treatment for another’s mistake. The attorneys at the Strom Law Firm can help get you the compensation you deserve, to get you through these tough times. We are licensed to practice across South Carolina, Georgia, and New York. To help you with your case, we offer free, confidential consultations. Do not hesitate to contact us. 803.252.4800.