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Free Content Does pulmonary tuberculosis change with ageing?

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Setting: In most low prevalence countries, tuberculosis has become a disease of the aged; it has recently been suggested that the elderly may present a specific pattern.

Objective: To compare clinical, bacteriological and radiological features of pulmonary tuberculosis between young and elderly populations in a high incidence country.

Participants and methods: We retrospectively studied 337 consecutive pulmonary tuberculosis patients without confirmed HIV infection, hospitalised from 1989 to 1993. The clinical, bacteriological and radiological features of the two age groups considered, young adults (<60 years) and elderly (≥60 years), were compared.

Results: Thoracic pain (16.3% vs 32.7%) and fever (27.2% vs 50.6%) were significantly less frequent in the elderly, while the frequency and duration of other symptoms before hospitalisation were similar. After admission, fever remained longer in young patients (P < 0.05). No significant differences were found regarding the general health status at hospitalisation, or associated illnesses (83.7% vs 73.5%; P = 0.068). Radiological lesions not related to the present diagnosis (14.1% vs 2.0%; P < 0.05), and a presumed diagnosis of tuberculosis (11.7% vs 4.1%; P = 0.02) were more frequent in the elderly.

Conclusion: This study showed no specific clinical, bacteriological or radiological features between age groups, and does not support the hypothesis of any age-related patterns in pulmonary tuberculosis.
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Keywords: Age; tuberculosis

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 1: Serviço de Pneumologia, Hospital Joaquim Urbano, Portugal 2: Serviço de Higiene e Epidemiologia, Faculdade de Medicina do Porto, Portugal

Publication date: 1997-04-01

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  • The International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease publishes articles on all aspects of lung health, including public health-related issues such as training programmes, cost-benefit analysis, legislation, epidemiology, intervention studies and health systems research. The IJTLD is dedicated to the continuing education of physicians and health personnel and the dissemination of information on tuberculosis and lung health world-wide.

    Certain IJTLD articles are selected for translation into French, Spanish, Chinese or Russian. They are available on the Union website

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