TB or not TB? An evaluation of children with an incorrect initial diagnosis of pulmonary tuberculosis

Gie, R. P. ; Beyers, N. ; Schaaf, H. S. ; Nel, E. D. ; Smutts, N. A. ; Van Zyl, S. ; Donald, P. R. (1995)


The original publication is available at http://www.samj.org.za


Object. The aim of the study was to identify diagnoses that are confused with pulmonary tuberculosis in children. Design. Prospective, investigative clinical study. Setting. Tertiary care teaching hospital and an urban tuberculosis clinic in an area with a very high incidence of pulmonary tuberculosis (> 800 new cases/100 000/year). Patients. Children suspected of having tuberculosis, children followed up for pulmonary infiltrates with eosinophilia and children with congenital pulmonary anomalies were investigated. Intervention(s), None. Outcome measure. Pulmonary tuberculosis was diagnosed using modified World Health Organisation criteria and the diagnoses of those children not suffering - from pulmonary tuberculosis were analysed. Results. Of the 354 children initially suspected of suffering from tuberculosis 71 (20%) were found to be suffering from other pulmonary disease, viz. pneumonia or bronchopneumonia (29%), bronchopneumonia with wheezing (18%), and asthma with lobar or segmental collapse (12%). Of 14 children suffering from pulmonary infiltrates with peripheral eosinophilia 6 (43%) were initially incorrectly diagnosed and treated for tuberculosis. Of 54 children with congenital pulmonary anomalies, 8 (15%) were treated for tuberculosis before the correct diagnosis was made. Congenital anomalies most often confused with tuberculosis were unilateral lung hypoplasia, bronchogenic cyst and tracheal bronchus with an; anomalous lobe. Conclusions. The criteria for diagnosing tuberculosis in children is complicated in areas with a high incidence of tuberculosis and poor socio-economic circumstances where many children presenting with conditions other than tuberculosis will be in contact with an adult case of pulmonary tuberculosis. The commonest conditions confused with tuberculosis are pneumonia, bronchopneumonia and asthma. Pulmonary infiltrates with peripheral eosinophilia and congenital lung abnormalities should be considered especially if the children have an atypical clinical picture or do not respond to tuberculosis treatment.

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