The diagnostic challenges in a child with intestinal tuberculosis

Vol. 62 No. 4, 2021


Raluca Maria Vlad, Elena Roxana Smadeanu, Gabriel Becheanu, Ruxandra Darie, Daniela Pacurar

Introduction: Romania is one of the European countries with a significant burden of tuberculosis (TB). Although pulmonary TB is still highly prevalent, intestinal TB is very rare and remains a diagnosis of exclusion, especially in children. The authors aimed to raise the awareness on this pathology by discussing the challenges faced in the management of one difficult case. Case presentation: A 3-year-old boy was hospitalized in the Pediatrics Department of Grigore Alexandrescu Emergency Children s Hospital, Bucharest, Romania, for abdominal pain and melena. On clinical examination, he was malnourished, with generalized edema and marked abdominal distension. Laboratory tests revealed iron-deficiency anemia, low plasma proteins, inflammatory syndrome and high fecal calprotectin. The abdominal ultrasound showed bowel wall thickening and diffuse edematous mesentery; the colonoscopy described multiple ulcers with edematous margins. Parenteral nutrition and complex antibiotic treatment were initiated with no effect. During the hospital stay, the medical staff observed how the mother chewed the patient s food. The child s pulmonary X-ray was normal, but the mother s was suggestive for pulmonary TB. The QuantiFERON test was positive. Biopsy of the bowel mucosa revealed numerous granulomas; the Auramine O/Rhodamine B staining of the specimen was positive. Specific TB treatment was started with good results: the patient resumed growth, abdominal pain and distention disappeared. Conclusions: Intestinal TB poses a diagnostic challenge, especially in the absence of pulmonary disease. It may mimic many other intestinal pathologies. Since correct treatment depends on making the correct diagnosis, a high index of suspicion must be kept when facing atypical abdominal symptoms.

Corresponding author: Raluca Maria Vlad, Assistant Professor, MD, PhD; e-mail:

DOI: 10.47162/RJME.62.4.19 Download PDF
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