Tuberculous lymphadenitis as a cause of persistent cervical lymphadenopathy in children from a tuberculosis-endemic area

Background: Cervical lymphadenitis is the most common form of extrapulmonary tuberculosis in children, although its relative contribution as a cause of persistent cervical adenopathy is not well-documented. The aim of this study was to determine the relative contribution of tuberculous lymphadenitis as a cause of persistent cervical adenopathy in a tuberculosis-endemic setting and to document its clinical presentation at the primary health care level. Methods: A prospective descriptive study was conducted from February 2003 through October 200 at 5 primary health care clinics in Cape Town, South Africa. The study included all children younger than 13 years presenting with persistent cervical adenopathy to the local primary health care clinic. Results: A total of 158 children were evaluated of whom 35 (22.2%) were diagnosed with tuberculous lymphadenitis. Bacteriologic confirmation was achieved in 27 of 35 (77.1%) children; all 35 responded to standard antituberculosis treatment. The majority of those without tuberculous lymphadenitis (105 of 123, 85.4%) had a visible superficial lesion in the area drained by the affected nodes. In children with persistent lymphadenopathy ≥2 x 2 cm, tuberculosis lymphadenitis was diagnosed in 31 of 33 (93.9%); specificity was 98.4%, sensitivity was 88.6% and the positive predictive value was 93.4%. Conclusion: Children commonly present with persistent cervical adenopathy to the primary health care clinic. The use of a simple clinical algorithm provided an accurate diagnosis of tuberculous lymphadenitis in the study setting. Fine needle aspirations provided a rapid and definitive diagnosis in the majority of children and will have added diagnostic value in settings where alternative diagnoses are more likely. Copyright © 2006 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
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Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal