Background: Pulmonary impairment subsequent to a cure of pulmonary tuberculosis has been described only in selected populations.
Methods: We compared pulmonary function in a case-control study of 107 prospectively identified patients with pulmonary tuberculosis who had completed at least 20 weeks of therapy and 210 patients with latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI).
Results: Both groups had similar risk factors for pulmonary impairment. Impairment was present in 59% of tuberculosis subjects and 20% of LTBI control subjects. FVC, FEV1, FEV1/FVC ratio, and the midexpiratory phase of forced expiratory flow were significantly lower in the treated pulmonary tuberculosis patients than in the comparison group. Ten patients with a history of pulmonary tuberculosis (9.4%) had less than half of their expected vital capacity vs one patient (0.53%) in the LTBI group. Another 42 patients (39%) with tuberculosis had between 20% and 50% of the expected vital capacity vs 36 patients with LTBI (17%). After adjusting for risk, survivors of tuberculosis were 5.4 times more likely to have abnormal pulmonary function test results than were LTBI patients (p > 0.001; 95% confidence interval, 2.98 to 9.68). Birth in the United States (odds ratio [OR], 2.64; p = 0.003) and age (OR, 1.03; p = 0.005) increased the odds of impairment. Pulmonary impairment was more common in cigarette smokers; however, after adjusting for demographic and other risk factors, the difference did not reach statistical significance (p = 0.074).
Conclusions: These findings indicate that pulmonary impairment after tuberculosis is associated with disability worldwide and support more aggressive case prevention strategies and posttreatment evaluation. For many persons with tuberculosis, a microbiological cure is the beginning not the end of their illness.