Hand and wrist tuberculosis in paediatric patients – our experience in 44 patients

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Skeletal tuberculosis (TB) of the hand and wrist is rare, accounting for less than 1% of all osteoarticular TB. Although rare, TB of the hand and wrist is a cause of major morbidity. A common feature among all available reports on TB of the hand and wrist was a delay in diagnosis, causing residual stiffness and pain after treatment. Minimal initial symptoms, rarity of the lesion and ability of wrist TB to mimic more common pathologies account for the delay. Skeletal TB may behave differently in this age compared with the adult population. Further, the disease may affect the growing bone, causing residual deformities. The paucity of studies from different countries, coupled with a difficulty in diagnosis resulting in major morbidity, led us to carry out a study on this topic. A total of 44 patients with skeletal lesions in the hand and wrist were studied. The diagnosis was confirmed by biopsy. Patients were started on multidrug antitubercular treatment (ATT). Those not responding were scheduled for debridement. All patients were assessed using the Green O’Brian scoring system. All these patients were studied separately for clinical presentation, nutritional status (Rainey–Mcdonald nutritional index), time from onset of symptoms to presentation, treatment required, prognosis and complications. The proximal phalanx of the fourth digit and the metacarpal of the fifth digit were the most commonly involved bones in our series, with five cases of each. The capitate was the most common carpal bone, followed by the lunate. The duration of symptoms ranged from 5 weeks to 24 weeks (mean: 7.6 weeks). Most of these patients presented with complaints of pain, followed by swelling. 13 patients did not respond favourably to ATT over an 8-week period and were scheduled for surgery. Three of these patients had multidrug resistance. There was one case of a pathological fracture in our series and seven cases of arthritis/residual significant pain at the end of follow-up. For all the other patients, the results were excellent. A very high index of suspicion, MRI and early biopsy are required for a timely diagnosis of skeletal TB of the hand and wrist. Early commencement of ATT was the most important factor for good results. The possibility of multidrug resistance should be kept in mind for patients not responding to treatment.

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