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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Clinicopathological profile and surgical treatment of abdominal tuberculosis: a single centre experience in northwestern Tanzania

Phillipo L Chalya1*, Mabula D Mchembe2, Stephen E Mshana3, Peter F Rambau4, Hyasinta Jaka5 and Joseph B Mabula1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Surgery, Catholic University of Health and Allied Sciences-Bugando, Mwanza, Tanzania

2 Department of Surgery, Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

3 Department of Microbiology & Immunology, Catholic University of Health and Allied Sciences-Bugando, Mwanza, Tanzania

4 Department of Pathology, Catholic University of Health and Allied Sciences-Bugando, Mwanza, Tanzania

5 Department of Internal Medicine, Catholic University of Health and Allied Sciences-Bugando, Mwanza, Tanzania

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2013, 13:270  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-13-270

Published: 8 June 2013



Abdominal tuberculosis continues to be a major public health problem worldwide and poses diagnostic and therapeutic challenges to general surgeons practicing in resource-limited countries. This study was conducted to describe the clinicopathological profile and outcome of surgical treatment of abdominal tuberculosis in our setting and compare with what is described in literature.


A prospective descriptive study of patients who presented with abdominal tuberculosis was conducted at Bugando Medical Centre (BMC) in northwestern Tanzania from January 2006 to February 2012. Ethical approval to conduct the study was obtained from relevant authorities. Statistical data analysis was performed using SPSS version 17.0.


Out of 256 patients enrolled in the study, males outnumbered females. The median age was 28 years (range = 16–68 years). The majority of patients (77.3%) had primary abdominal tuberculosis. A total of 127 (49.6%) patients presented with intestinal obstruction, 106 (41.4%) with peritonitis, 17 (6.6%) with abdominal masses and 6 (2.3%) patients with multiple fistulae in ano. Forty-eight (18.8%) patients were HIV positive. A total of 212 (82.8%) patients underwent surgical treatment for abdominal tuberculosis. Bands /adhesions (58.5%) were the most common operative findings. Ileo-caecal region was the most common bowel involved in 122 (57.5%) patients. Release of adhesions and bands was the most frequent surgical procedure performed in 58.5% of cases. Complication and mortality rates were 29.7% and 18.8% respectively. The overall median length of hospital stay was 32 days and was significantly longer in patients with complications (p < 0.001). Advanced age (age ≥ 65 years), co-morbid illness, late presentation, HIV positivity and CD4+ count < 200 cells/μl were statistically significantly associated with mortality (p < 0.0001). The follow up of patients were generally poor as only 37.5% of patients were available for follow up at twelve months after discharge.


Abdominal tuberculosis constitutes a major public health problem in our environment and presents a diagnostic challenge requiring a high index of clinical suspicion. Early diagnosis, early anti-tuberculous therapy and surgical treatment of the associated complications are essential for survival.

Abdominal tuberculosis; Clinicopathological profile; Outcome; Surgical treatment; Tanzania