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Free Content The changing pattern of intestinal tuberculosis: 30 years' experience

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SETTING: Although the incidence of tuberculosis had been decreasing for many years, it has recently risen.

OBJECTIVES: To investigate the changes in the pattern and distribution of intestinal tuberculosis and to alert surgeons to the importance of maintaining a high index of suspicion for this disease entity.

Design: Retrospective analysis of 134 patients with intestinal tuberculosis discharged from the Veterans General Hospital in Taipei from 1965 to 1995. All records, bacteriological examinations and pathological specimens were reviewed and extracted onto a standard questionnaire.

RESULTS: A decline in the case numbers of intestinal tuberculosis was noted after 1975. However, there seems to be a slight rise in case numbers since 1990. The average age of those patients after 1990 (64.8 years) is higher than those before 1990 (44.4 years). None of our patients had clinical signs of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. Most patients (81.3%, 109/134) had not received a definite diagnosis until surgery. Active pulmonary tuberculosis was found in 37 patients (29.1%).

CONCLUSION: The possible reasons for the rise in cases of intestinal tuberculosis in our patients may be linked to an increased life expectancy, the reappearance of some formerly ‘silent’ tuberculosis cases, and relapse in patients having received incomplete antituberculosis chemotherapy. Its insidious and non-specific clinical presentation makes the diagnosis of intestinal tuberculosis difficult. An increased index of suspicion and greater familiarity with the disease may shorten the time of diagnosis and may also prevent some unnecessary operations.
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Keywords: changing pattern; intestinal; tuberculosis

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 1: Division of Colorectal Surgery, Department of Surgery, Veterans General Hospital-Taipei, Medical College, National Yang-Ming University, Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China 2: Division of Pulmonary Immunology and Infectious Disease, Department of the Chest, Veterans General Hospital-Taipei, Medical College, National Yang-Ming University, Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China

Publication date: 1998-07-01

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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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