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SAMJ: South African Medical Journal

On-line version ISSN 2078-5135
Print version ISSN 0256-9574


MARAIS, S  and  WILKINSON, R J. The diagnosis and medical management of tuberculous meningitis in adults. SAMJ, S. Afr. med. j. [online]. 2014, vol.104, n.12. ISSN 2078-5135.

Tuberculous meningitis (TBM) is a medical emergency for which tuberculosis (TB) treatment should be initiated as soon as possible after diagnosis. Owing to the low diagnostic yields of confirmatory tests, TBM is often diagnosed based on suggestive clinical and cerebrospinal fluid findings, evidence for TB outside the central nervous system (CNS), typical brain imaging features and exclusion of other causes of meningitis. TB drug regimens used in TBM may be suboptimal as they are informed by studies of TB outside the CNS, rather than being based on randomised controlled trials in TBM. TBM has a high mortality and the management of HIV-co-infected patients is further complicated by neurological TB-immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (IRIS), which frequently occurs after starting antiretroviral therapy (ART) during TBM treatment and contributes to the poor outcome in HIV-associated TBM. HIV-infected TBM patients due to start ART should be counselled about the risk of developing neurological TB-IRIS, typical symptoms that could be expected and need to return to hospital should any of these develop. Currently, the only evidence-based treatment for TB-IRIS is with corticosteroids, which should be considered in all cases of neurological TB-IRIS.

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