SETTING: Pulmonary division of a university hospital in Belgium, an area with a relatively low tuberculosis incidence (14.9 per 100000 population in 1993). OBJECTIVE: To evaluate whether ‘unusual’ radiographic presentations of pulmonary tuberculosis (PTB) have increased in recent years, especially in elderly and non-indigenous patients. DESIGN: Retrospective study of chest X-rays of 219 patients aged over 18 years with bacteriologically proven PTB in the period 1981–1990, including 92 elderly (≥65 years) and 17 non-indigenous patients. ‘Unusual’ presentations consisted of solitary pleural effusion, isolated hilar or mediastinal lymphadenopathies, normal chest X-ray, lower lung field TB, nodular lesions, diffuse infiltrations and atelectasis. RESULTS: There was an increase in ‘unusual’ presentations, from 24% in 1981–1985 to 35% in 1986–1990, yet this was not statistically significant (P = 0.08). This increase tended to be more pronounced in the elderly age group, i.e., from 24% to 42% compared to 23% to 31% in the younger age group. The proportion of elderly patients in the group with ‘unusual’ findings was 44% in 1981–1985 and 48% in 1986–1990. In the non-indigenous group, the percentage of ‘unusual’ findings did not change between the two periods (40% versus 41%). The proportion of non-indigenous patients in the group with ‘unusual’ findings increased from 7% in 1981–1985 to 13% in 1986–1990; however, this difference was not significant. CONCLUSIONS: In an area with low TB incidence, adult PTB still presents with the classical pattern of reactivation disease. Although not statistically significant, there is a trend towards a relative increase in the frequency of unusual presentations in recent years, which is most pronounced in the elderly and in non-indigenous adults.
Pulmonary Division, University Hospitals, K.U. Leuven, Belgium
Publication date: November 1, 1998
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