Cervical tuberculosis: A decision tree for protecting healthcare workers

Daniel S. Roberts, Jayme R. Dowdall, Leslie Winter, Carol A. Sulis, Gregory A. Grillone, Kenneth M. Grundfast

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Objectives/Hypothesis: The clinical presentation of cervical tuberculosis (TB) is a unique challenge to the otolaryngologist. To minimize the risk of nosocomial transmission, otolaryngologists must suspect the diagnosis and be familiar with recommendations for TB prevention. Study Design: Scientific review. Methods: We review current literature and recent changes in TB prevention strategies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "Guidelines for Preventing the Transmission of Mycobacterium tuberculosis in Health-Care Settings, 2005." Results: Nosocomial transmission may occur from either unrecognized pulmonary disease or from aerosolization of tubercle bacilli during diagnostic procedures. History of prior TB infection, residence in a country where TB is endemic, close contact with a TB patient, or positive tuberculin skin test should raise suspicion of cervical TB. Physical examination findings may include painless, unilateral cervical lymphadenopathy. Children and human immunodeficiency virus infected patients present unique challenges, as these groups may have atypical presentations. When cervical TB is suspected, the provider should always screen for pulmonary and laryngeal disease. Fine needle aspiration with polymerase chain reaction or culture may accurately identify cervical TB. In rare cases, excisional biopsy may be required. Conclusions: To facilitate interpretation and rapid diagnosis while minimizing risk to health care providers, we provide a decision tree based on new federal guidelines and the clinical experience of a team of infectious disease specialists and otolaryngologists.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1345-1349
Number of pages5
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Cervical tuberculosis
  • Extrapulmonary tuberculosis
  • Nosocomial transmission
  • Tuberculous lymphadenitis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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