Edward D. Chan, MD


Tuberculosis in the elderly: Keep a high index of suspicion

July 01, 2006

Abstract: Elderly persons with active tuberculosis may present with the classic features, such as cough, hemoptysis, and fever, but some patients present with less typical signs, such as hepatosplenomegaly, liver function abnormalities, and anemia. A high index of suspicion is required when a patient presents with cough or pneumonia unresponsive to conventional therapy. Acid-fast smear and mycobacterial culture of a sputum specimen are recommended for diagnosis. For an elderly patient who tests positive with purified protein derivative, 9 months of isoniazid prophylaxis is recommended. For patients who are intolerant of isoniazid or have been exposed to or infected by an isoniazid-resistant strain, rifampin single-agent preventive therapy may be an effective alternative. (J Respir Dis. 2006;27(7):307-315)