By Dr. Satyajit Das, Neurosurgery
A brain infection forms when micro-organisms like bacteria, virus, protozoa or fungi reach the brain and start growing there, causing harm in the process. The micro-organisms can enter the body either through a direct wound in the brain like after a head injury, or through the blood flow from some other infected part of the body.
Causes of brain infections include:
- Major head injury, like contaminated skull fracture or bullet injury.
- Chronic sinusitis or ear infections.
- Weakened immune system due to AIDS, chemotherapy or after splenectomy.
- Congenital heart diseases.
- Meningitis (Inflammation of the spinal cord and brain membranes).
Types of brain infections include:
- Meningitis (inflammation of coverings of the brain)
- Brain abscess (pus filled cavity inside brain parenchyma)
- Granuloma (tumour-like inflammatory lesions in brain seen in Tuberculoma, aspergilloma etc.)
- Empyema (pus layer outside the brain in between its coverings)
Symptoms that develop include:
- Progressive drowsiness
- Confusion, inappropriate behaviour.
Since brain infection is a serious condition, hospital stay is usually required. If brain infection is suspected, certain tests are done to confirm the extent of disease and identify which micro-organism is responsible. Usually, a CSF study, and brain scans are required. The source of infection needs to be found too. A culture and sensitivity test is done to get valuable clues about what medications would be useful against the culprit microbes. Antibiotics are the mainstay of brain infection treatment to kill the causative organisms. In large brain abscess, empyema, or granulomas, surgery is required to tackle the disease. Other objectives of treatment are dealing with secondary issues like hydrocephalus, seizures, brain swelling, etc. which may require surgery if medicines are not adequately effective.
Primary prevention in the form of immunization against tuberculosis and certain capsulated bacteria which cause meningitis should be given to all children. Diseases which predispose to brain infection, like congenital heart disease, sinusitis, ear infection etc should be treated early.
Taking antibiotics prescribed by your doctor before urological or dental procedures are necessary as these procedure can release bacteria into the bloodstream. If there is any suspicion of a developing brain infection, adequate treatment should be started without delay.