Direct comparison of the diagnostic yield of ultrasound-assisted Abrams and Tru-Cut needle biopsies for pleural tuberculosis

Koegelenberg C.F.N. ; Bolliger C.T. ; Theron J. ; Walzl G. ; Wright C.A. ; Louw M. ; Diacon A.H. (2010)


Background: Tuberculous pleuritis remains the commonest cause of exudative effusions in areas with a high prevalence of tuberculosis and histological and/or microbiological confirmation on pleural tissue is the gold standard for its diagnosis. Uncertainty remains regarding the choice of closed pleural biopsy needles. Objectives: This prospective study compared ultrasound-assisted Abrams and Tru-Cut needle biopsies with regard to their diagnostic yield for pleural tuberculosis. Methods: 89 patients (54 men) of mean±SD age 38.7±16.7 years with pleural effusions and a clinical suspicion of tuberculosis were enrolled in the study. Transthoracic ultrasound was performed on all patients, who were then randomly assigned to undergo ≥4 Abrams needle biopsies followed by ≥4 Tru-Cut needle biopsies or vice versa. Medical thoracoscopy was performed on cases with non-diagnostic closed biopsies. Histological and/or microbiological proof of tuberculosis on any pleural specimen was considered the gold standard for pleural tuberculosis. Results: Pleural tuberculosis was diagnosed in 66 patients, alternative diagnoses were established in 20 patients and 3 remained undiagnosed. Pleural biopsy specimens obtained with Abrams needles contained pleural tissue in 81 patients (91.0%) and were diagnostic for tuberculosis in 54 patients (sensitivity 81.8%), whereas Tru-Cut needle biopsy specimens only contained pleural tissue in 70 patients (78.7%, p=0.015) and were diagnostic in 43 patients (sensitivity 65.2%, p=0.022). Conclusions: Ultrasound-assisted pleural biopsies performed with an Abrams needle are more likely to contain pleura and have a significantly higher diagnostic sensitivity for pleural tuberculosis.

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