Aim of study: To evaluate patient profiles, diagnostic approaches, and treatment strategies in patients with lymph node tuberculosis.
Methods: Demographic data, diagnostic findings, and therapies were retrospectively analyzed in 60 patients with lymph node tuberculosis who were hospitalized between 1992 and 1999.
Results: Thirty percent (n = 18) of patients were natives, and 70% were immigrants (n = 42). The cervical lymph nodes were most frequently involved (63.3%), followed by the mediastinal lymph nodes (26.7%) and the axillary lymph nodes (8.3%). All patients (except one patient who was HIV-positive) showed a positive response to tuberculin skin testing. Lymph node excision and fine-needle aspiration (FNA) were similarly effective in obtaining sufficient material for histologic and microbiological analysis. Mycobacterium tuberculosis was identified in 43.3% of patients by microbiological testing, and culture methods showed the highest sensitivity. Despite standard treatment, the initial enlargement of the lymph nodes occurred in 20% of patients and local complications occurred in 10%.
Conclusion: Lymph node tuberculosis is still an important issue in developed countries and has to be considered in differential diagnosis. The best approach appears to be a combination of skin testing and FNA. Negative results in the identification of M tuberculosis do not exclude the diagnosis of lymph node tuberculosis.