Extrapulmonary mycobacterial infections in a cohort of HIV-positive patients: ultrasound experience from Vicenza, Italy

Infection. 2013 Apr;41(2):409-14. doi: 10.1007/s15010-012-0336-4. Epub 2012 Sep 24.


Purpose: Extrapulmonary tuberculosis (EPTB) is frequently seen in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected individuals in Sub-Saharan Africa and recent work has shown point-of-care (POC) ultrasound to be a diagnostic aid in the resource-limited, highly endemic setting. Its role in industrialized countries, however, has rarely been studied. With international migration, EPTB is increasingly seen in European hospitals. This study reports ultrasound findings and discusses the diagnostic relevance of EPTB in an industrialized country setting.

Methods: In this retrospective study, we describe a cohort of 27 patients with a predominantly immigrant background diagnosed with HIV and EPTB in Northern Italy and evaluate the role of ultrasound in their clinical management. All inpatient files of HIV-positive individuals admitted to our hospital with culture-proven diagnosis of EPTB were reviewed, along with chest X-rays and ultrasound studies. The outcome and results of long-term follow-up were extracted.

Results: A total of 243 HIV-positive inpatients were identified between January 2005 and November 2011. Twenty-seven of the patients [11.1 %, 95 % confidence interval (CI) 7.4-15.7] were diagnosed with EPTB. Ultrasound showed a typical pattern of enlarged abdominal lymph nodes and focal lesions in the spleen and liver in 22 patients (81.5 %, 95 % CI 7.4-15.7) and, thus, helped to raise the suspicion of mycobacterial infection.

Conclusion: As disseminated mycobacterial infections in HIV-positive patients can be treated effectively if diagnosed early, and typical sonographic findings are seen in the majority of these patients, we suggest that POC ultrasound should be integrated in diagnostic and screening algorithms for EPTB in developed countries.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bacteriological Techniques
  • Coinfection / microbiology
  • Coinfection / virology
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Emigrants and Immigrants
  • Female
  • Fever / microbiology
  • Fever / pathology
  • Fever / virology
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • HIV Seropositivity / epidemiology
  • HIV Seropositivity / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Liver / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spleen / pathology
  • Thorax / diagnostic imaging
  • Thorax / microbiology
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Tuberculosis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Tuberculosis / epidemiology
  • Ultrasonography
  • Young Adult