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Clinical presentation of abdominal tuberculosis in HIV seronegative adults

Cengiz Bolukbas1*, Fusun F Bolukbas1, Tulin Kendir2, Remzi A Dalay2, Nihat Akbayir3, Mehmet H Sokmen3, Ali T Ince2, Mithat Guran4, Erkan Ceylan5, Guray Kilic6 and Oya Ovunc2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Internal Medicine, Gastroenterology Division, Faculty of Medicine, Harran University, Sanliurfa, Turkey

2 Gastroenterology Clinic, Haydarpasa Numune Training and Research Hospital, Istanbul, Turkey

3 Gastroenterology Clinic, Sisli Etfal Training and Research Hospital, Istanbul, Turkey

4 General Surgery Clinic, Haydarpasa Numune Training and Research Hospital, Istanbul, Turkey

5 Department of Chest Diseases, Faculty of Medicine, Harran University, Sanliurfa, Turkey

6 Pathology Unit, Haydarpasa Numune Training and Research Hospital, Istanbul, Turkey

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BMC Gastroenterology 2005, 5:21  doi:10.1186/1471-230X-5-21

Published: 21 June 2005



The accurate diagnosis of abdominal tuberculosis usually takes a long time and requires a high index of suspicion in clinic practice. Eighty-eight immune-competent patients with abdominal tuberculosis were grouped according to symptoms at presentation and followed prospectively in order to investigate the effect of symptomatic presentation on clinical diagnosis and prognosis.


Based upon the clinical presentation, the patients were divided into groups such as non-specific abdominal pain & less prominent in bowel habit, ascites, alteration in bowel habit, acute abdomen and others. Demographic, clinical and laboratory features, coexistence of pulmonary tuberculosis, diagnostic procedures, definitive diagnostic tests, need for surgical therapy, and response to treatment were assessed in each group.


According to clinical presentation, five groups were constituted as non-specific abdominal pain (n = 24), ascites (n = 24), bowel habit alteration (n = 22), acute abdomen (n = 9) and others (n = 9). Patients presenting with acute abdomen had significantly higher white blood cell counts (p = 0.002) and abnormalities in abdominal plain radiographs (p = 0.014). Patients presenting with alteration in bowel habit were younger (p = 0.048). The frequency of colonoscopic abnormalities (7.5%), and need for therapeutic surgery (12.5%) were lower in patients with ascites, (p = 0.04) and (p = 0.001), respectively. There was no difference in gender, disease duration, diagnostic modalities, response to treatment, period to initial response, and mortality between groups (p > 0.05). Gastrointestinal tract alone was the most frequently involved part (38.5%), and this was associated with acid-fast bacteria in the sputum (p = 0.003).


Gastrointestinal tract involvement is frequent in patients with active pulmonary tuberculosis. Although different clinical presentations of patients with abdominal tuberculosis determine diagnostic work up and need for therapeutic surgery, evidence based diagnosis and consequences of the disease does not change.