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In the European Union (EU) 72,334 tuberculosis (TB) cases were notified in 2011, of which 16,116 (22%) had extrapulmonary tuberculosis (EPTB). The percentage of TB cases with EPTB ranged from 4% to 48% in the reporting countries. This difference might be explained by differences in risk factors for EPTB or challenges in diagnosis. To assess the practices in diagnosis of EPTB we asked European Union/European Economic Area (EU/EEA) countries to participate in a report describing the diagnostic procedures and challenges in diagnosing EPTB. Eleven EU Member States participated and reports showed that in the majority EPTB is diagnosed by a pulmonologist, sometimes in collaboration with the doctor who is specialised in the organ where the symptoms presented. In most countries a medical history and examination is followed by invasive procedures, puncture or biopsy, to collect material for confirmation of the disease (by culture/histology/cytology). Some countries also use the tuberculin skin test or an interferon-gamma-release-assay. A wide variety of radiological tests may be used. Countries that reported challenges in the diagnosis of EPTB reported that EPTB is often not considered because it is a rare disease and most medical professionals will not have experience in diagnosing EPTB. The fact that EPTB can present with a variety of symptoms that may mimic symptoms of other pathologies does pose a further challenge in diagnosis. In addition, obtaining an appropriate sample for confirmation of EPTB was frequently mentioned as a challenge. In summary, diagnosis of EPTB poses challenges due to the diversity of symptoms with which EPTB may present, the low level of suspicion of clinicians, and due to the difficulty in obtaining an adequate sample for confirmation.


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