Purpose: The purpose of this work was to describe the radiologic findings of pulmonary tuberculosis in patients who presented with acute respiratory failure.
Methods: We included patients who had newly diagnosed active pulmonary tuberculosis and who presented with acute respiratory failure. Initial chest radiographic (n = 17) and high-resolution CT (n = 11) findings of each patient were analyzed retrospectively.
Results: Of 1,010 patients with active pulmonary tuberculosis, 17 patients (1.7%) presented with acute respiratory failure. Nine (53%) of the 17 patients died. The most common initial chest radiographic findings were small nodular lesions (16/17; 94%), consolidation (13/17; 76%), and ground-glass opacity (12/17; 70%). Eleven (69%) of 16 nodular lesions, 9 of 13 (69%) consolidations, and 10 of 12 (83%) ground-glass opacities were bilateral. On HRCT (n = 11), miliary micronodular lesions were seen in 6 patients (55%), whereas bronchogenic spread of tuberculosis with disseminated centrilobular nodules and tree-in-bud appearance was seen in 5 patients (45%). Diffuse areas of ground-glass attenuation were seen in all six patients with miliary nodules and four of five patients with bronchogenic spread of tuberculosis.
Conclusion: Patients with pulmonary tuberculosis occasionally present with acute respiratory failure. In this condition, chest radiograph most commonly shows bilateral small nodular lesions mixed with consolidation or ground-glass opacity, whereas HRCT demonstrates findings of miliary or bronchogenic disseminated tuberculosis with diffuse areas of ground-glass attenuation.