Objective: To estimate the diagnostic accuracy of chest radiography in the detection of chest lymphadenopathy in children with clinically suspected pulmonary tuberculosis.
Methods: Design: Prospective cross sectional study. Setting: A short stay ward in a children’s hospital in South Africa. Patients: Consecutive children under 14 years of age admitted with suspected pulmonary tuberculosis. Diagnostic test: Antero-posterior and/or lateral chest x rays interpreted independently and blind to the reference standard by three primary care clinicians and three paediatricians, all with a special interest in tuberculosis. Reference standard: Spiral chest computed tomography (CT) with contrast injection.
Results: One hundred children (median age 21.5 months) were enrolled. Lymphadenopathy was present in 46 of 100 reference CT scans and judged to be present in 47.1% of x ray assessments. Overall sensitivity was 67% and specificity 59%. Primary care clinicians were more sensitive (71.5% v 63.3%, p = 0.047) and less specific (49.8% v 68.9%, p<0.001) than paediatricians. Overall accuracy was higher for the paediatricians (diagnostic odds ratio 3.83 v 2.49, p = 0.008). The addition of a lateral to an antero-posterior view did not significantly increase accuracy (diagnostic odds ratio 3.09 v 3.73, p = 0.16). Chance adjusted inter-observer agreement (κ) varied widely between viewer pairs, but was around 30%.
Conclusions: Detection of mediastinal lymphadenopathy on chest x ray to diagnose pulmonary tuberculosis in children must be interpreted with caution. Diagnostic accuracy might be improved by refining radiological criteria for lymphadenopathy.
- AP, antero-posterior
- CT, computed tomography
- lymph nodes
- observer variation
- sensitivity and specificity
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