Tuberculosis in the head and neck – experience in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal
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Tuberculosis is the world’s leading cause of death from a single infective agent. The World Health Organisation has declared the disease a “global emergency”. Extrapulmonary presentations form a major proportion of new cases, especially since the advent of the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome epidemic. Therefore, it is important that oral health care workers are aware of tuberculosis in the head and neck region and its varied manifestations. This study reports on one hundred and four patients diagnosed with tuberculosis and with head and neck tuberculosis lesions.The aim of the study was to determine the extent to which tuberculosis presents in the head and neck region. It was a descriptive, retrospective, record-based study on a cohort of tuberculosis patients that presented with head and neck tuberculosis at private practices in the Durban area over a fourteen month period. A structured data capture sheet was the method chosen for recording the data.The majority of the sample (89.4%) had tuberculosis of the head and neck lymph nodes, five (4.8%) had tuberculosis of the tonsil, two (1.9%) had tuberculosis of the larynx, two (1.9%) had tuberculosis of the ear, one (1%) had parotid gland tuberculosis and one (1%) had tuberculosis of the nose. The records indicate that excision biopsy and histopathological examinations were used to make a diagnosis. A third (33.7%) of the patients were confirmed with human immunodeficiency virus infection.A high index of suspicion of tuberculosis is important in the differential diagnosis of neck swellings, hoarseness and otorrhoea and in human immunodeficiency virus positive patients with an enlarging neck mass. A biopsy is usually necessary for diagnosis. Successful outcome depends upon appropriate chemotherapy and timely surgical intervention when necessary. Oral health care workers need to be fully cognizant of all the various presentations of head and neck tuberculosis to allow early diagnosis and quick commencement of appropriate treatment.