Current diagnosis and management of peripheral tuberculous lymphadenitis

Clin Infect Dis. 2011 Sep;53(6):555-62. doi: 10.1093/cid/cir454.


Peripheral tuberculous lymphadenitis accounts for ~10% of tuberculosis cases in the United States. Epidemiologic characteristics include a 1.4:1 female-to-male ratio, a peak age range of 30-40 years, and dominant foreign birth, especially East Asian. Patients present with a 1-2 month history of painless swelling of a single group of cervical lymph nodes. Definitive diagnosis is by culture or nucleic amplification of Mycobacterium tuberculosis; demonstration of acid fast bacilli and granulomatous inflammation may be helpful. Excisional biopsy has the highest sensitivity at 80%, but fine-needle aspiration is less invasive and may be useful, especially in immunocompromised hosts and in resource-limited settings. Antimycobacterial therapy remains the cornerstone of treatment, but response is slower than with pulmonary tuberculosis; persistent pain and swelling are common, and paradoxical upgrading reactions may occur in 20% of patients. The role of steroids is controversial. Initial excisional biopsy deserves consideration for both optimal diagnosis and management of the otherwise slow response to therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antitubercular Agents / therapeutic use
  • Disease Management
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / isolation & purification
  • Tuberculosis, Lymph Node / diagnosis*
  • Tuberculosis, Lymph Node / drug therapy*
  • Tuberculosis, Lymph Node / microbiology
  • Tuberculosis, Lymph Node / pathology
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Antitubercular Agents