TB is classified as pulmonary, extrapulmonary, or both. Depending on several factors linked to different populations and bacterial strains, extrapulmonary TB may occur in 10–40% of patients. Furthermore, up to two-thirds of HIV-infected patients with TB may have both pulmonary and extrapulmonary TB or extrapulmonary TB alone.
Pulmonary TB is conventionally categorized as primary or postprimary (adult-type, secondary). This distinction has been challenged by molecular evidence from TB-endemic areas indicating that a large percentage of cases of adult pulmonary TB result from recent infection (either primary infection or reinfection) and not from reactivation.
Primary Pulmonary TB Disease
Primary pulmonary TB occurs soon after the initial infection with tubercle bacilli. It may be asymptomatic or may present with fever and occasionally pleuritic chest pain. In areas of high TB transmission, this form of disease is often seen in children. Because most inspired air is distributed to the middle and lower lung zones, these areas are most commonly involved in primary TB. The lesion forming after initial infection (Ghon focus) is usually peripheral and accompanied by transient hilar or paratracheal lymphadenopathy, which may or may not be visible on standard chest radiography (CXR) (Fig. 173-4). Some patients develop erythema nodosum on the legs (see Fig. A1-39) or phlyctenular conjunctivitis. In the majority of cases, the lesion heals spontaneously and becomes evident only as a small calcified nodule. Pleural reaction overlying a subpleural focus is also common. The Ghon focus, with or without overlying pleural reaction, thickening, and regional lymphadenopathy, is referred to as the Ghon complex.
Chest radiograph showing right hilar lymph node enlargement with infiltration into the surrounding lung tissue in a child with primary tuberculosis. (Courtesy of Prof. Robert Gie, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Stellenbosch University, South Africa; with permission.)
In young children with immature cell-mediated immunity and in persons with impaired immunity (e.g., those with malnutrition or HIV infection), primary pulmonary TB may progress rapidly to clinical illness. The initial lesion increases in size and can evolve in different ways. Pleural effusion, which is found in up to two-thirds of cases, results from the penetration of bacilli into the pleural space from an adjacent subpleural focus. In severe cases, the primary site rapidly enlarges, its central portion undergoes necrosis, and cavitation develops (progressive primary TB). TB in young children is almost invariably accompanied by hilar or paratracheal lymphadenopathy due to the spread of bacilli from the lung parenchyma through lymphatic vessels. Enlarged lymph nodes may compress bronchi, causing total obstruction with distal collapse, partial obstruction with large-airway wheezing, or a ball-valve effect with segmental/lobar hyperinflation. Lymph nodes may also rupture into the airway with development of pneumonia, often including areas of necrosis ...