SPRINGFIELD, Tenn. - As the number of meningitis cases continues to grow nationwide, there is concern of people flooding hospitals wanting unnecessary spinal taps to test for meningitis.
While doctors say there's no doubt detecting meningitis early will give people a better chance of fighting it, they say rushing to get a lumbar puncture, also known as a spinal tap, isn't the only answer to give a patient peace of mind. Even with a negative result, there could be a period of waiting.
Mike Savas of Springfield, Tennessee received a lumbar puncture last week after seeing symptoms of meningitis. He received a tainted steroid injection in mid-September. The results came back negative for meningitis, but Thursday he found out that he's not in the clear yet.
"We don't completely know how this is going to play out, because people without symptoms were thought to be free and clear within weeks, but it now looks like months," said Dr. Corey Slovis with Vanderbilt Medical Center. "So yes, it is possible with a negative tap to develop symptoms later."
So far, St. Thomas Hospital has performed more than 275 lumbar punctures. Doctors say it's not recommended unless you are experiencing symptoms of meningitis. They admit it's a procedure that can be uncomfortable and come with risks.
"In general, it is a very safe procedure, but just as we've seen with this outbreak of meningitis, it can cause complications, including a post-lumbar puncture headache, which can be very severe for a few days," said Slovis.
For the Savas family, the procedure was meant to provide peace of mind-- the kind of peace they're still waiting to find.
"You are just hoping it's not you, and you just gotta keep going on with what you do every day, but it's still in the back of your mind," said Savas.