Clinical characteristics of 110 miliary tuberculosis patients from a low HIV prevalence country

Document Type



Pulmonary and Critical Care


SETTING: A university teaching hospital in Karachi, Pakistan.

Objective: To define the clinical characteristics and outcome of miliary tuberculosis (TB) patients from a low human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) prevalence country.

Design: Review of adult miliary TB patients admitted between 1994 and 2001. Clinical characteristics of those dying from miliary TB were compared with those of the survivors.

Results: Most of the 110 cases reviewed were middle aged or elderly, with a female preponderance. An underlying medical condition was present in 47%. Presenting symptoms were of several weeks' duration, and mostly constitutional (fever and weight loss). Common laboratory findings included anaemia (62%), lymphopaenia (71%), hyponatraemia (74%), elevated serum alkaline phosphatase (57%) and hypoalbuminaemia (92%). Typical miliary pattern was observed in 77% of radiographs. Sputum smear and culture were positive in respectively 36% and 52% of those tested. Biopsy was performed in selected patients. Mean hospital stay was 8.8 days, and mortality was 30%. Those who died were significantly older than survivors and had a more fulminant course. Presence of altered mental status, lung crackles, leucocytosis, thrombocytopaenia and the need for ventilation were associated with increased mortality.

CONCLUSION: Miliary TB carries a high mortality. It should be considered in patients who present with prolonged systemic symptoms. A positive TB culture or biopsy is needed to establish a diagnosis.

Publication (Name of Journal)

The International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease