Tuberculous meningitis is the most common presentation of intracranial tuberculosis, and usually refers to infection of the leptomeninges. Uncommonly tuberculosis can be limited to the pachymeninges (dura mater), it is called as tuberculous pachymeningitis and is discussed separately.
Tuberculous meningitis, although seen in all age groups, has a peak incidence in childhood (particularly 0-4 years of age) in high prevalence areas. In low prevalence areas it is more frequently encountered in adolescents and adults.
Important risk factors include:
- diabetes mellitus
Low grade fever with headache is prodromal manifestation. Most common clinical manifestation is fever, headache, vomiting and neck stiffness. Cranial nerve palsies of 3rd, 4th and 6th nerves may be seen. Seizures, focal neurological deficits, stupor and coma may be seen in late stages.
CSF analysis reveals lymphocytosis, increased protein level and decreased glucose levels.
Tuberculous meningitis is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The infection spreads haematogeneously from a distant focal point, usually pulmonary tuberculosis and lodges immediately deep to the pia forming Rich foci. These can rupture into the subarachnoid space, forming an exudate. This purulent material is primarily located in vicinity of basal cisterns: inferomedial surface of frontal lobe, anteromedial surface of temporal lobes, superior cerebellum and floor of the fourth ventricle.
From here, infection spreads to interpeduncular cisterns, around optic chiasm and to pontomesencephalic, ambient and suprasellar cisterns. Although the exudate can reach the Sylvian fissures it uncommonly extends over the cerebral convexities 3.
Choroid plexitis may also be a late manifestation as is mass-like regions of caesous necrosis within this exudate.
- non-contrast scans may be normal
- later complications may be visible including:
- infarcts due to arteritis (especially in children)
Following contrast administration a number of additional features may be visible:
- basal enhancing exudates
- leptomeningeal enhancement, along sylvian fissures, tentorium uncommonly convexities
- ependymitis may be present
- normal initially
- T1 shortening may be seen after progression of disease 3
- normal initially
- T2 shortening is seen after disease progression 3
- T1 C+ (Gd): diffuse basal enhancement with enhancing exudates
- magnetization transfer (MT) spin echo: significantly lower MT ratio is seen in tuberculous meningitis as compared to fungal and pyogenic meningitis
Treatment and prognosis
Anti-tuberculosis regimen is started after confirmation of diagnosis. Treatment of complications (e.g. drainage of hydrocephalus) is also performed.
- arteritis that may result in ischaemic infarcts 5
- affects one-third of cases
- more common in children
- cranial neuropathies: most affected nerves are 3rd, 4th and 6th nerves
General imaging differential considerations include:
- pyogenic meningitis
- leptomeningeal carcinomatosis
- disseminated oligodendroglial-like leptomeningeal tumour of childhood
- fungal meningitis
- causative agent
- pulmonary tuberculosis
- cardiac tuberculosis
- CNS tuberculosis
- tuberculous otomastoiditis
- gastrointestinal tuberculosis
- genitourinary tuberculosis
- renal tuberculosis
- skeletal tuberculosis
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- 2. Gupta RK, Gupta S, Singh D et-al. MR imaging and angiography in tuberculous meningitis. Neuroradiology. 1994;36 (2): 87-92. Pubmed citation
- 3. MR imaging and spectroscopy of central nervous system infection. Springer. ISBN:0306465515. Read it at Google Books - Find it at Amazon
- 4. Berry. Diagnostic Radiology. Jaypee Brothers Medical Publishers (P) Ltd. ISBN:8180616363. Read it at Google Books - Find it at Amazon
- 5. Kornienko VN, Pronin I. Diagnostic Neuroradiology. Springer. ISBN:3540756523. Read it at Google Books - Find it at Amazon