Meningococcal Meningitis with Waterhouse-Friderichsen Syndrome
This scenario was developed to educate junior and senior emergency medicine (EM) residents. It can also be cut short to be used for 4th year EM bound medical students.
Meningococcal meningitis is a devastating disease that can cause severe neurologic sequelae if not diagnosed early and treated appropriately. In 2017, Centers for Disease Control reports a rate of 350 cases (0.11 cases per 100,000) which makes it an extremely rare disease. The highest reported rate is under the age of 1 (0.69 in 100,000) with second peak in adolescents and young adults between the ages of 16 and 23 (0.29 in 100,000) and third peak in patients above the age of 80 (0.49 in 100,000).1 The presentation for bacterial meningitis includes neck stiffness, fever, vomiting, photophobia, positive Kernig and Brudzinski’s sign, and lethargy. In addition, 80% patients with meningococcal meningitis have rash during some stage of their disease.2 A feared and rare complication of severe meningococcal disease is Waterhouse-Friderichsen Syndrome (WFS) which carries a high mortality rate of 20%. Therefore, early diagnosis and rapid management of meningococcal disease is highly imperative.3 This simulation case was written to demonstrate the presentation of meningococcal meningitis and to discuss the management of WFS.
By the end of this simulation session, learners will be able to: (1) manage a patient with altered mental status (AMS) with fever while maintaining a broad differential diagnosis, (2) recognize the risk factors for meningococcal meningitis, (3) manage a patient with worsening shock and perform appropriate resuscitation, (4) develop a differential diagnosis for thrombocytopenia and elevated international normalized ratio (INR) in an altered febrile hypotensive patient with rash, (5) manage the bleeding complications from WFS, (6) discuss the complications of meningococcal meningitis including WFS, and (7) review when meningitis prophylaxis is given.
This session was conducted using high-fidelity simulation. It was immediately followed by an in-depth debriefing session. The session was conducted on a total of 9 EM residents from various levels of training who actively participated during the case and 25 residents who were observers. There was 1 simulation instructor running the session and 1 simulation technician who acted as a nurse.
After the simulation and debriefing session was complete, an online survey was sent via surveymonkey.com to all the learners. The survey collected responses to the following questions: (1) the case was believable, (2) the case had right amount of complexity, (3) the case helped in improving medical knowledge and patient care, (4) the simulation environment gave me a real-life experience and, (5) the debriefing session after simulation helped improve my knowledge. A ten-item Likert scale was used to collect the responses.
Ten learners responded to the survey. One hundred percent of them either agreed or strongly agreed that the case was beneficial in learning and improving patient care. They also agreed that it helped in improving medical knowledge. The post-session debrief was found to be very helpful by all the learners..
This high-fidelity simulation case was not only cost-effective but also was very helpful in teaching EM residents how to manage a patient with meningococcal meningitis and WFS. The case was started with the patient presenting with altered mental status and fever, and as the case unfolded, mental status and shock worsened allowing the learners to intubate and resuscitate. Overall, learners also found the discussion of prophylaxis valuable.
Meningitis, altered mental status, medical simulation, infectious disease, neurology, septic shock, Waterhouse-Friderichsen Syndrome, hematology.