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Free Content Delay in the diagnosis and treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis in patients attending a university teaching hospital

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SETTING: University Hospital, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

OBJECTIVE: To investigate patient and doctor delays in the diagnosis and treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis in patients attending a tertiary teaching hospital.

DESIGN: A total of 97 patients with newly diagnosed pulmonary tuberculosis at our hospital were interviewed to study the process of case-finding since the onset of symptoms. Time intervals between onset, first medical consultation and the final diagnosis and commencement of antituberculosis treatment were determined. Demographic and clinical features were evaluated for their effect on these intervals.

RESULTS: 36 cases were sputum smear-positive and 61 were smear-negative. Tuberculosis was eventually confirmed in 32 of the smear-negative cases. The medians of patient delay, doctor delay and total delay were 2 weeks, 7 weeks and 12.5 weeks, respectively. The majority of the patients consulted private general practitioners but the diagnosis of tuberculosis was rarely suspected; chest X-ray and sputum examinations were underutilized.

CONCLUSION: To shorten patient delay the public should be educated about the symptoms of tuberculosis and the importance of early medical consultation. Private general practitioners should be more alert to the diagnostic possibility and refer the patients promptly to the government hospitals for appropriate investigation.
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Keywords: delay; diagnosis; pulmonary tuberculosis; treatment

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: Department of Medicine, University Hospital, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Publication date: 1997-08-01

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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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