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Diagnostic imaging of hepatic tuberculosis: case series

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BACKGROUND: Hepatic tuberculosis (TB) shows non-specific symptoms, and liver imaging may provide diagnostic clues. Here we describe a series of patients with hepatic TB showing characteristic radiological findings.

METHODS: Single-centre retrospective evaluation of patients with hepatic TB diagnosed over a period of 16 years who underwent ultrasound, computed tomography (CT) and/or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Hepatic lesions were classified as miliary, nodular, serohepatic or cholangitis.

RESULTS: Of 14 patients with hepatic TB, five were co-infected with the human immunodeficiency virus. All patients had additional extrahepatic TB localisations. An interferon-gamma release assay was performed in 11/14 patients, ultrasound and CT were available for all patients and MRI for four. Observed patterns were miliary (n = 6) with multiple nodules < 2 cm; nodular (n = 5), characterised by a variable number of nodules (2–7 cm); and serohepatic (n = 3), with multiple nodular subcapsular lesions with a thin, smooth wall. Shared findings were hypoechoic lesions on ultrasound, hypodense lesions with ring enhancement on CT, while MRI lesions were hypointense on T1- and hyperintense on T2-weighted images.

CONCLUSIONS: Ultrasound, CT and MRI can independently contribute to detection of hepatic TB. While a miliary pattern or calcifications are characteristic, no pattern is completely pathognomonic and the diagnosis depends on microbiological evidence. Particularly in risk groups, characteristic radiological findings may prompt targeted diagnostic work-up.
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Keywords: CT; HIV-TB; diagnostic imaging; liver, MRI; miliary; tuberculoma; ultrasound

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Radiology Unit 2: Translational Research Unit, L Spallanzani National Institute for Infectious Diseases, Rome, Italy 3: Department of Infectious Diseases, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands

Publication date: 01 July 2018

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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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