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Unusual Clinical Presentation of Thoracic Tuberculosis: The Need for a Better Knowledge of Illness

Sandra Manca, Alessandro Giuseppe Fois, Luigi Santoru, Rocco Trisolini, Maria Francesca Polo, Salvatore Ostera, Marco Patelli, Pietro Pirina

(Department of Respiratory Disease, University of Sassari, Sassari, Italy)

Am J Case Rep 2015; 16:240-244

DOI: 10.12659/AJCR.892546


Background: Pulmonary tuberculosis (TB), a highly contagious infectious disease, is a significant public health problem all over the world and remains an important cause of preventable death in the adult population. Endobronchial TB is an unusual form of thoracic TB that may be complicated by tracheobronchial stenosis, and bronchoesophageal fistula formation is a very rare complication. Tubercular lymphadenitis can also lead to fistula formation through a process of caseum necrosis and opening of a fistula between the bronchus and oesophagus.
Case Report: We report an uncommon case of thoracic TB in an immunocompetent 73-year-old Caucasian man who presented several problems: bronchoesophageal fistula, endobronchial TB, and mediastinal lymphadenopathy in the absence of contemporary parenchymal consolidation. Furthermore, he presented a normal chest radiograph and mostly unclear and non-specific symptoms at onset.
Conclusions: We emphasize the need for a better knowledge of this illness and awareness that it may have an unusual presentation. In these cases, diagnosis and proper treatment can be delayed, with severe complications for the patient. Pulmonary TB remains a real diagnostic challenge: a normal chest radiograph and nonspecific symptoms do not allow us to exclude this persistent infectious disease.

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