Tuberculosis of the shoulder joint

Joint Bone Spine. 2006 Mar;73(2):177-81. doi: 10.1016/j.jbspin.2005.03.015. Epub 2005 Aug 1.


Objectives: Skeletal tuberculosis is less common than the pulmonary form. The involvement of the shoulder joint is infrequent. We report our experience treating tuberculosis of the shoulder in 11 patients.

Methods: There were seven men and four women, ranging in age from 19 to 55 years (average 28.09 years). The duration of their complaints at presentation ranged from 3 to 24 months. The most common presentation was pain, which was seen in 10 joints. All of the patients had mild to moderate restriction of motion of the shoulder. On laboratory examination, the erythrocyte sedimentation rate was increased mildly. No patient had an active tuberculosis lesion or history of pulmonary disease. The diagnosis was based on the clinical picture and radiographic features, and was confirmed by open biopsy. The diagnosis was not confirmed by biopsy in one patient, but the family history and clinical and radiological features were highly suggestive of tuberculosis. Surgical debridement was done in two patients and open biopsy in eight patients in order to obtain samples for pathology. Arthrodesis was done in only one patient. In all patients, treatment began with a four-drug regimen for 2 months, followed by a two-drug regimen for 10 months.

Results: The mean follow-up period after the end of treatment was 28.72 months (range, 22-52 months). At the time of the last visit, all the lesions had healed without recurrence. Five cases had a painless, mobile shoulder, while three had mildly restricted shoulder motion without pain, and three had residual limitation of motion of the affected shoulder.

Conclusions: Tuberculosis of the shoulder can be difficult to diagnose in the early stages. If not diagnosed early, bony tuberculosis may reduce the quality of life. Therefore, tuberculosis should be suspected in cases of long-standing pain in the shoulder. It is necessary to keep tuberculosis in the differential diagnosis of several osseous pathologies. Arthrodesis should be reserved only for lesions that fail to heal after adequate chemotherapy and rehabilitation.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antitubercular Agents / therapeutic use
  • Biopsy
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mycobacterium / isolation & purification
  • Radiography
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Shoulder Joint / diagnostic imaging
  • Shoulder Joint / pathology*
  • Shoulder Joint / physiopathology
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Tuberculosis, Osteoarticular / diagnostic imaging
  • Tuberculosis, Osteoarticular / drug therapy
  • Tuberculosis, Osteoarticular / pathology*


  • Antitubercular Agents