Skip to Main Content

Intestinal tuberculosis is common in underdeveloped countries but rare in the United States except in immigrant groups or in patients with untreated AIDS. It is caused by both Mycobacterium tuberculosis and M bovis. Active pulmonary disease is present in less than 50% of patients. The most frequent site of involvement is the ileocecal region; however, any region of the gastrointestinal tract may be involved. Intestinal tuberculosis may cause mucosal ulcerations or scarring and fibrosis with narrowing of the lumen. Patients may be without symptoms or complain of chronic abdominal pain, obstructive symptoms, weight loss, and diarrhea. An abdominal mass may be palpable. Complications include intestinal obstruction, hemorrhage, and fistula formation. The purified protein derivative (PPD) skin test may be negative, especially in patients with weight loss or AIDS. Abdominal CT may show thickening of the cecum and ileocecal valve and massive lymphadenopathy. Colonoscopy may demonstrate an ulcerated mass, multiple ulcers with steep edges and adjacent small sessile polyps, small ulcers or erosions, or small diverticula, most commonly in the ileocecal region. The differential diagnosis includes Crohn disease, carcinoma, lymphoma, and intestinal amebiasis. The diagnosis is established by either endoscopic or surgical biopsy revealing acid-fast bacilli, caseating granuloma, or positive cultures from the organism. Detection of tubercle bacilli in biopsy specimens by PCR is now the most sensitive means of diagnosis.

Treatment with standard antituberculous regimens (Tables 9–14 and 9–15) is effective.

Gan  H  et al. An analysis of the clinical, endoscopic, and pathologic features of intestinal tuberculosis. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2016 Jul;50(6):470–5.
[PubMed: 26974755]
Kentley  J  et al. Intestinal tuberculosis: a diagnostic challenge. Trop Med Int Health. 2017 Aug;22(8):994–9.
[PubMed: 28609809]
Limsrivilai  J  et al. Meta-analytic Bayesian model for differentiating intestinal tuberculosis from Crohn’s disease. Am J Gastroenterol. 2017 Mar;112(3):415–27.
[PubMed: 28045023]

Pop-up div Successfully Displayed

This div only appears when the trigger link is hovered over. Otherwise it is hidden from view.