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Medical Practice

Surveillance of Elderly Hospital Patients for Pulmonary Tuberculosis

Br Med J 1974; 1 doi: (Published 19 January 1974) Cite this as: Br Med J 1974;1:104
  1. R. B. Cole,
  2. J. P. Balmer,
  3. T. S. Wilson


    A restrospective study of pulmonary tuberculosis in a general hospital showed that the diagnosis had been frequently overlooked in the middleaged or elderly because the patient also suffered from a more acute condition which preoccupied the attention of the doctor. The commonest error was to discount chest x-ray abnormalities by omitting sputum culture or serial radiography.

    Surveillance was carried out on all patients aged 60 or over admitted to a large general hospital whose routine chest radiograph showed signs of possible pulmonary tuberculosis whether apparently active or inactive. Three sputum samples from each patient were examined for Mycobacterium tuberculosis without reference to the clinical presentation. In a nine-month period six out of 81 patients proved to have active pulmonary tuberculosis (7·4%). It is suggested that this may be a useful method of screening the elderly hospital population for pulmonary tuberculosis.

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