An 82-year-old previously healthy woman with a recent upper respiratory infection presents with generalized weakness, headache, and blurry vision. For the past 2 weeks she has had upper respiratory symptoms that started with a sore throat, nasal congestion, and excessive coughing. She went to her primary care doctor 4 days ago and was diagnosed with sinusitis. She was given a prescription for an antibiotic and took it for 2 days, then stopped. She thereafter had chills, lightheadedness, vomiting, blurry vision, general achiness, and a headache that started abruptly and has not gotten better since. Except for blurry vision, she has not had any other visual symptoms. The blurry vision remains when she closes either eye. She also has eye tenderness with movement and mild photosensitivity. She has no drug allergies. Exam findings include temperature of 102.5°F, nuchal rigidity, and sleepiness. Which of the following is the next most appropriate action in this case?
a. Get a brain MRI, then perform a lumbar puncture
b. Give the patient a prescription for oral azithromycin and let her go home
c. Immediately give intravenous ceftriaxone plus ampicillin
d. Immediately start intravenous acyclovir
e. Obtain cerebrospinal fluid and blood cultures and observe the patient until the results come back
the answer is below…
The United States Medical Licensing Examination, or USMLE for short, is a three-part licensing examination that is required in order to receive a license to practice medicine within the United States.
The USMLE assesses a physician’s ability to apply knowledge, concepts, and principles, and to determine fundamental patient-centered skills that are important in health and disease and that constitute the basis of safe and effective patient care.Examination committees composed of medical educators and clinicians from across the United States and its territories prepare the examination materials each year.
This exam is designed by the Federation of State Medical Boards and the National Board of Medical Examiners to determine whether or not an individual understands and can apply the knowledge necessary to practice medicine safely and intelligently.
The USMLE is actually comprised of three different exams that are referred to as steps, which examine the individual’s knowledge of specific topics related to the field of medicine such as basic science, medical knowledge, medical skills, clinical science, and the application of all of these skills and areas of knowledge in the medical field.
All three steps of the USMLE include a series of computerized multiple-choice questions, but the format of the exam and the information covered in each multiple-choice section is different for each step of the USMLE. The USMLE Step II also has a clinical skills portion that examines an individual’s ability to work with real patients and the USMLE Step III has a computerized patient simulation portion in addition to the multiple-choice section of the exam. In order for an individual to receive a license to practice medicine, the individual must pass all three steps of the USMLE.
The correct answer is c; Immediately give intravenous ceftriaxone plus ampicillin.
The immediate concern is that the patient has bacterial meningitis, and she should be treated. A lumbar puncture and blood draw to obtain cultures should be done; however, it can take a few days for the results to come back, and it may be too late for the patient by then. Oral azithromycin is not the proper treatment for bacterial meningitis. Intravenous acyclovir would be used to treat herpes encephalitis.