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Chest x-ray is ineffective in many TB patients

Periodic chest radiographic examinations are not economically feasible for the screening of asymptomatic tuberculosis patients who are not at risk. These data were presented on May 19, 2002 at the 98th International Conference of the American Thoracic Society in Atlanta.

There is a significant lack of unified measures in national and local policies regarding the need for annual chest x-rays in patients who have had positive tuberculin skin test results but have not received specific anti-tuberculosis treatment.

A retrospective analysis was carried out on 286 patients who obtained a positive tuberculin skin test, who did not undergo tuberculosis chemoprophylaxis and who underwent at least three chest x-rays during the period from July 1991 to June 2001.

Only one patient was diagnosed with early active TB on a periodic X-ray. This means that only less than 1.65% of all patients undergoing periodic radiological examination can detect active pulmonary tuberculosis. The frequency of actual diagnosis of tuberculosis in patients who are not at risk may be even lower, because this identified patient had risk factors (the patient was in contact with a patient with active tuberculosis and used intravenous drugs, indicating that the patient had more risk factors than the general population).

Researchers believe that a periodic chest x-ray in patients with positive skin tuberculin breakdown is not an economically viable method for the early diagnosis of active pulmonary tuberculosis in the general population. In addition, this examination leads to excessive exposure of patients.