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Tuber Lung Dis. 1995 Aug;76(4):290-4.

The effect of age on the presentation of patients with tuberculosis.

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Department of Medicine, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Prince of Wales Hospital, Shatin, Hongkong.



To study the differences in presentation of young and elderly patients with tuberculosis (TB).


Between January 1991 and December 1992 all patients with TB diagnosed at the Department of Medicine, Prince of Wales Hospital, were recruited into the study. The following data were collected: body weight, coexisting medical problems, presenting symptoms, radiographic appearance, sputum results for acid-fast bacilli and peripheral blood biochemistry. The patients were divided into young ( < 65 years) and elderly ( > or = 65 years) age groups and differences in presentation of the 2 groups were analysed.


There were 78 young and 94 elderly patients with TB. The elderly patients had lower body weight, less haemoptysis but more non-specific complaints (25% vs 1%, P = 0.001). The chest radiographs in the elderly patients were less likely to have upper lobe infiltration (9% vs 37%, P = 0.0002) but more commonly had extensive infiltration of both lungs (17% vs 2%, P = 0.014). The only biochemical abnormality that was more common in the elderly was a low serum albumin level (64% vs 45%, P < 0.05).


Elderly patients with TB are more likely to present with non-specific complaints and atypical radiographic appearance. A high index of suspicion and prompt investigations in elderly patients may allow for earlier diagnosis and treatment of TB.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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