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Skip Navigation LinksHome > April 2008 - Volume 101 - Issue 4 > Hepatobiliary Tuberculosis: A Review of Presentations and Ou...
Southern Medical Journal:
doi: 10.1097/SMJ.0b013e318164ddbb
Original Article

Hepatobiliary Tuberculosis: A Review of Presentations and Outcomes

Chong, Vui Heng MRCP, FAMS

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Hepatobiliary tuberculosis (HTB) is uncommon and can be difficult to diagnose. We present our experience with HTB (over a 10-year period). Fourteen patients were identified from a total of 1888 cases of tuberculosis (TB) infection during this period. Five patients had isolated organ involvement [hepatic (n=3) and biliary (n=2)], and 9 had multiorgan involvement [2 organs (n=7) and 3 organs (n=2)]. The overall annual incidence ranged from 0.0% to 1.05% of all TB infections. Common clinical presentations were weight loss (64%), loss of appetite (64%), abdominal pain (57.1%), fever (50%), jaundice (42.3%), and abdominal distension (14.3%). The median delay from symptom onset to presentation was 40.5 days (range, 7–730 days), and from first presentation to diagnosis was 15 days (range, 1–420 days). Malignancy was initially suspected in 86%. Chest radiographic changes consistent with pulmonary TB were seen in 29% (n=4). Two had active pulmonary TB. Adverse effects of treatment occurred in 42.9%, mainly drug-induced hepatitis and nonspecific gastrointestinal symptoms. Three patients with biliary involvement required long-term biliary stenting. The overall mortality was 14%. In conclusion, HTB is uncommon and is often associated with other organ involvement. Presentation is often delayed, which may lead to significant morbidity and mortality.

Key Points

* Hepatobiliary tuberculosis is rare and often involves other organs.

* Manifestations can be nonspecific, leading to a delay in diagnosis and resulting in significant morbidity and mortality.

* Hepatobiliary tuberculosis is often mistaken for malignancy.

* Hepatic calcifications should heighten suspicion.

© 2008 Southern Medical Association


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