Abdominal tuberculosis: sonographic diagnosis and treatment response in HIV-positive adults in rural South Africa

Int J Infect Dis. 2010 Sep;14 Suppl 3(6):e108-12. doi: 10.1016/j.ijid.2009.11.030. Epub 2010 Apr 2.


Objective: To investigate the diagnostic value of abdominal ultrasound in HIV-positive inpatients in a rural African setting.

Methods: This was a prospective case series over 3 months of adult HIV-positive patients with symptoms suggestive of abdominal tuberculosis (TB). Diagnostic ultrasound was performed for all patients: sonographic criteria included abdominal lymph node enlargement (>1.5cm) and focal splenic lesions; ascites was a supportive finding. Further diagnostic studies, e.g., aspiration or biopsy were not routinely performed. TB treatment was initiated on the basis of clinical and sonographic features. The patients were contacted after 4 months to evaluate the clinical outcome.

Results: One hundred and eighty adult HIV-positive patients were screened; 30 (16.7%) showed sonographic signs of abdominal TB. The median CD4 count was 78 cells/mm(3). Presenting symptoms were weight loss (86.7%), abdominal pain (76.7%), and diarrhea (60%). Abdominal lymph node enlargement was the diagnostic finding in almost all cases (96.7%); hypoechoic lesions of the spleen were seen in 50% and ascites in 73.3%. Follow-up information was available for 25 patients: 24% had died and the remaining 76% reported symptomatic improvement and weight gain.

Conclusions: Characteristic sonographic features of abdominal TB are common in HIV-infected inpatients in a rural African setting. Ultrasound should be introduced into clinical algorithms for the diagnosis of extrapulmonary TB.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ascites / diagnostic imaging
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / complications*
  • HIV Infections / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Lymphatic Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Rural Population
  • South Africa
  • Spleen / diagnostic imaging
  • Tuberculosis, Gastrointestinal / complications*
  • Tuberculosis, Gastrointestinal / diagnosis
  • Tuberculosis, Gastrointestinal / diagnostic imaging*
  • Ultrasonography
  • Young Adult