Introduction The rate of tuberculosis has remained relatively stable over the past decade. However, the proportion of cases with extra-pulmonary disease has increased from 40.9% to 47.9%. Multiple studies have shown that diagnosis of abdominal tuberculosis (ATB) is often delayed due to non-specific symptoms in patients. The aim of this study was to examine a selection of patients from a UK district general hospital with a diagnosis of ATB and the process in which that diagnosis was reached.
Method We performed a retrospective review of all patients at Russells Hall Hospital, Dudley, who had a diagnosis of ATB between 2004 and 2014. Demographic, clinical, laboratory and radiographical findings were collated including the time delay between hospital presentation and diagnosis.
Results Sixteen cases of ATB were identified with a median age of 38.5 years at time of diagnosis (range 22–73 years) with a male gender of 56%. The majority (87.5%) were of non-white background; South Asian (69%), Afrocaribbean (19%) and White British (12%). The commonest features were abdominal pain (62.5%), weight loss (50%) and fevers (50%). The time between first presentation to hospital and diagnosis ranged from 2 days to 3 years.
Basic investigations revealed mean haemoglobin of 11.9 ± 1.7 g/dL, CRP of 109 ± 92 mg/L, alkaline phosphatase of 200 ± 160 IU/L, and albumin of 37.1 ± 6.5 g/L. The chest x-ray was normal in 11 patients; abnormalities seen were consolidation in 3 patients and a cavitating lesion in 1 patient. One patient did not have an x-ray.
There was a wide range of sites of disease including small bowel (25%), peritoneum (25%), lymph nodes (18.75%), appendix (12.5%), liver (12.5%) and omentum (6.25%). Tuberculin test was only performed in three patients and all of which were positive. Diagnosis was based on histology (43.75%), imaging (31.25%), microbiology (6.25%), or a combination of clinical suspicion and imaging or appearances at surgery (18.75%).
The majority who received treatment (9/14) were given Rifater plus ethambutol. The remaining five patients all received a different combination of antituberculous treatment (Rifater alone, Rifinah ± Pyrazinamide and Ethambutol, Rifampicin/Isoniazid/Pyrazinamide ± Ethambutol). Two patients did not receive treatment as their diagnosis was made post-mortem. Of the sixteen patients, ten were treated and discharged, three died, two have on-going review and one was lost to follow up.
Conclusion ATB is a difficult diagnosis to make and there can be a significant time delay between symptom onset and diagnosis as the symptoms can be varied and insidious in nature. It is an easily treatable condition and a combination of abdominal pain, fevers and weight loss in a non-Caucasian patient should raise suspicion and warrants further investigation.
Disclosure of interest None Declared.