Aims: To analyse the epidemiology, presentation and diagnosis of head and neck tuberculosis (TB).
Methods: We conducted a 10-year retrospective study of all cases of tuberculosis of the head and neck region occurring in Bradford, UK.
Results: Of a total of 1315 cases of TB, 128 presented with head and neck TB (12 per cent of which (15/128) were in children). Cervical lymph nodes were most commonly involved (87 per cent, 111/128), other sites being: salivary glands (five cases); larynx, oral cavity, eyes and ears (two cases each); and skin, thyroid, nasopharynx and retropharyngeal space (one case each). Patients' ethnic origins were Asian (89 per cent, 114/128), Caucasian (10 per cent, 13/128) and African (one case). Only 26 per cent (33/128) had constitutional symptoms, and 20 per cent (25/128) had a coexistent site of TB. Only 39 per cent (40/105) of surgical specimens were sent for culture.
Conclusions: Isolated head and neck TB is not uncommon. Atypical presentations render diagnosis challenging, so awareness aids early diagnosis. Mycobacterial cultures should be performed, where possible, for diagnosis.