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Free Content Improving sputum microscopy services for the diagnosis of tuberculosis in Peru and Bolivia

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SETTING: Sixteen primary care health centres in Peru and Bolivia.

OBJECTIVES: To assess the utilisation of microscopy services in Peru and Bolivia and determine if clinical audit, a quality improvement tool, improves the utilisation of these services.

DESIGN: We estimated the percentage of patients with suspected tuberculosis (TB) in whom sputum microscopy was effectively utilised in Peru and Bolivia over two 6-month periods before and after a clinical audit intervention that included standards setting, measuring clinical performance and feedback.

RESULTS: Before the intervention, only 31% (95%CI 27–35) of TB suspects were assessed with sputum microscopy in Peru. In Bolivia, 30% (95%CI 25–35) underwent at least two sputum microscopy examinations. After clinical audit, the availability of sputum microscopy results improved by respectively 7% (95%CI 1–12, P < 0.05) and 23% (95%CI 15–30, P < 0.05) over 2 years in Peru and Bolivia.

CONCLUSIONS: Despite World Health Organization recommendations that all TB suspects should undergo sputum microscopy before treatment, results are available for further assessment for only one third. This is a potentially serious obstacle to TB case detection. Clinical audit can bring some improvement. We recommend regular monitoring of effective utilisation of microscopy services and investigations to ascertain organisational and structural issues in their uptake and use.
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Keywords: case detection; clinical audit; sputum microscopy; tuberculosis

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 1: Nuffield Centre for International Health and Development, Institute of Health Sciences and Public Health Research, Faculty of Medicine and Health, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK 2: Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Belgium 3: Instituto de Medicina Tropical Alexander von Humboldt, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Lima, Peru 4: Instituto de Investigacion Biomedica (IIBISMED), Universidad Mayor de San Simon, Facultad de Medicine, Cochabamba, Bolivia

Publication date: June 1, 2007

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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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