Open Access Open Badges Research article

Patient and health care system delays in the start of tuberculosis treatment in Norway

Mohamed Guled Farah12*, Jens Henning Rygh12, Tore W Steen3, Randi Selmer1, Einar Heldal1 and Gunnar Bjune2

Author Affiliations

1 Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo, Norway

2 Section for International Health, Institute of General Practice and Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo, Post box 1130 Blindern N-0318 Oslo, Norway

3 Health and Welfare Agency, City of Oslo, Norway

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2006, 6:33  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-6-33

Published: 24 February 2006



Delay in start of tuberculosis (TB) treatment has an impact at both the individual level, by increasing the risk of morbidity and mortality, and at the community level, by increasing the risk of transmission. The aims of this study were to assess the delays in the start of treatment for TB patients in Oslo/Akershus region, Norway and to analyze risk factors for the delays.


This study was based on information from the National TB Registry, clinical case notes from hospitals and referral case notes from primary health care providers. Delays were divided into patient, health care system and total delays. The association with sex, birthplace, site of the disease and age group was analyzed by multiple linear regression.


Among the 83 TB patients included in this study, 71 (86%) were born abroad. The median patient, health care system and total delays were 28, 33 and 63 days respectively, with a range of 1–434 days. In unadjusted analysis, patient delay and health care system delay did not vary significantly between men and women, according to birthplace or age group. Patients with extra-pulmonary TB had a significantly longer patient, health care system and total delay compared to patients with pulmonary TB. Median total delay was 81 and 56 days in the two groups of TB patients respectively. The health care system delay exceeded the patient delay for those born in Norway. The age group 60+ years had significantly shorter patient delay than the reference group aged 15–29 years when adjusted for multiple covariates. Also, in the multivariate analysis patients born in Norway had significantly longer health care system delay than patients born abroad.


A high proportion of patients had total delays in start of TB treatment exceeding two months. This study emphasizes the need of awareness of TB in the general population and among health personnel. Extra-pulmonary TB should be considered as a differential diagnosis in unresolved cases, especially for immigrants from high TB prevalence countries.