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Clinical Investigations: TUBERCULOSIS |

Identifying Pulmonary Tuberculosis in Patients With Negative Sputum Smear Results*

Alka M. Kanaya, MD; David V. Glidden, PhD; Henry F. Chambers, MD
Author and Funding Information

*From the Divisions of General Internal Medicine (Dr. Kanaya) and Infectious Diseases (Dr. Chambers), Department of Medicine, and Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics (Dr. Glidden), University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA.

Correspondence to: Alka M. Kanaya, MD, 1701 Davisadero St, Suite 554, San Francisco, CA 94143-1732; e-mail: alkak@itsa.ucsf.edu



Chest. 2001;120(2):349-355. doi:10.1378/chest.120.2.349
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Background: Clinicians need to decide whether to begin empiric therapy for patients who are suspected of having tuberculosis (TB) but have negative sputum smear results. Culture results may take weeks, and delaying treatment may allow further transmission of disease.

Study objective: To identify the clinical, demographic, and radiographic characteristics that identify smear-negative patients who have TB, and to create a TB prediction rule.

Design: Retrospective chart review.

Setting: University-affiliated public hospital in San Francisco, CA, between 1993 and 1998.

Patients: Forty-seven patients with TB and 141 control patients who were hospitalized with a suspicion of pulmonary TB; all had negative sputum smear results.

Measurements and results: Demographic, clinical, and radiographic variables were determined by chart review. In multivariate analysis, a positive tuberculin skin test result (odds ratio [OR], 4.8; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.0 to 11.9) was independently associated with an increased risk of a positive TB culture finding. A radiographic pattern not typical of pulmonary tuberculosis (OR, 0.3; 95% CI, 0.1 to 0.7) and expectoration with cough (OR, 0.3; 95% CI, 0.1 to 0.6) were predictive of a decreased risk. An interaction between HIV seropositivity and mediastinal lymphadenopathy on the chest radiograph was also associated with a positive TB culture result (OR, 7.2; 95% CI, 1.4 to 36.0). The TB prediction score (TPS) was created with widely ranging likelihood ratios that could affect the posterior probability of TB by 30-fold.

Conclusion: The TPS put into context with the overall prevalence of TB in a given area may help clinicians decide if a patient with negative sputum smear results should start empiric antituberculous therapy or wait for culture results. These results need prospective validation.


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