Home Print this page Email this page Small font size Default font size Increase font size
Users Online: 773
Home About us Editorial board Search Ahead of print Current issue Archives Submit article Instructions Subscribe Contacts Login 

 Table of Contents 
Year : 2017  |  Volume : 6  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 688-690  

Miliary tuberculosis with pulmonary and extrapulmonary component complicated with acute respiratory distress syndrome

1 Department of General Medicine, North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health and Medical Sciences, Shillong, Meghalaya, India
2 Department of Radiology, North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health and Medical Sciences, Shillong, Meghalaya, India

Date of Web Publication29-Dec-2017

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Bhupen Barman
Department of General Medicine, North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health and Medical Sciences, Shillong - 793 018, Meghalaya
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2249-4863.222031

Rights and Permissions

Miliary tuberculosis results from the lymphohematogenous spread of the tubercle bacilli to the vascular beds in the lungs and other organs. Diagnosis is made by clinical judgment and chest X-ray showing miliary mottling of the lung fields. Another imaging study like computed tomography imaging of the lungs and abdomen can also be supportive in diagnosing miliary tuberculosis. We present a case of miliary tuberculosis in an immunocompetent young male with atypical manifestation of a left-sided pleural effusion and a life-threatening complication of acute respiratory distress syndrome during hospital stay which required noninvasive mechanical ventilation and steroids therapy, along with antitubercular medication.

Keywords: Acute respiratory distress syndrome, miliary tuberculosis, pleural effusion

How to cite this article:
Barman B, Tiewsoh I, Lynrah KG, Wankhar B, Beyong T, Issar NK. Miliary tuberculosis with pulmonary and extrapulmonary component complicated with acute respiratory distress syndrome. J Family Med Prim Care 2017;6:688-90

How to cite this URL:
Barman B, Tiewsoh I, Lynrah KG, Wankhar B, Beyong T, Issar NK. Miliary tuberculosis with pulmonary and extrapulmonary component complicated with acute respiratory distress syndrome. J Family Med Prim Care [serial online] 2017 [cited 2021 Sep 19];6:688-90. Available from: https://www.jfmpc.com/text.asp?2017/6/3/688/222031

  Introduction Top

Tuberculosis remains one of the most common causes of death from infectious disease globally. Miliary tuberculosis is a potentially fatal form of tuberculosis which results in the hematogenous dissemination of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis hence includes both pulmonary and extrapulmonary form of tuberculosis.[1] We report a rare presentation of miliary tuberculosis in the form of pulmonary manifestation, with extrapulmonary lesion, left-sided tubercular pleural effusion complicated with acute respiratory distress syndrome which accounts a high mortality rate if not dealt in time and aggressively.

  Case Report Top

A 25 year old male who is a hospital ward attendant by occupation presented to emergency ward with the chief complaints of left sided chest pain, productive cough and low grade fever with night sweats for the last one month. This was associated with significant loss of his weight and appetite. There was no history of swelling of his limbs, jaundice and diarrhea. He was a non diabetic, non hypertensive and there was no past history of tuberculosis or any major febrile illness in the past. There was no history of intravenous drug abusers or high risk behaviors. On examination of the patient, he was febrile, with a pulse rate of 106 beats/min, blood pressure of 110/70 mmHg, and respiratory rate of 30/min. Respiratory system examination had a dull note on percussion with decreased breath sounds on auscultation suggesting the presence of a left-sided pleural effusion. Other systems yielded no clinical abnormalities. His chest x ray was suggestive of bilateral miliary mottling with a left sided moderate pleural effusion which later resolved with intercostal drainage (ICD) [Figure 1]a and [Figure 1]b. Laboratory evaluation showed exudative pleural effusion by Light's criteria with pleural fluid protein of 5.5 mg/dl, pleural fluid lactate dehydrogenase 1194 mg/dl, gram-stain showing no pus cells, with lymphocyte prominent cells on cytology and high adenosine deaminase levels of the pleural fluid 216 μIU/ml. Contrast enhanced computed tomography chest revealed multiple miliary nodules in the left lung, consolidation in the right lung with relative subpleural sparing [Figure 2]. The hematological profile showed mild anemia with high erythrocyte sedimentation rate. Except for his mild liver dysfunction, rests of the biochemistry results were normal. His viral markers (hepatitis B surface antigen, anti-hepatitis C virus, HIV) were negative. Blood, urine, and sputum culture were sterile, and sonography of abdomen was normal. With the above evidence, the patient was started on antitubercular therapy, isoniazid, rifampicin, pyrazinamide, and ethambutol under directly observed treatment, short-course regimen. On the 4th day, the patient had respiratory distress with oxygen saturation to 60% at room air and the arterial blood gas was suggestive of low PO2 40% with a PF ratio of 200. His chest X-ray was suggestive of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) [Figure 1]c, and transthoracic two-dimensional echocardiography showed a good left ventricular function. The patient was given noninvasive ventilation with the initiation of steroids (prednisolone 1 mg/kg). After 3 days, patient oxygenation improved with facial mask and a repeated chest X-ray showed clearing of the infiltration in both lung fields [Figure 1]d. The patient was continued on antitubercular medication; his liver enzymes were normalizing, and steroids were continued on tapering doses. After 15 days of admission, the patient was discharged with the continuation of antitubercular medication for 6 months.
Figure 1: Anteroposterior chest radiographs that were obtained at the time of the initial evaluation (a) and during hospitalization show miliary mottling with left sided pleural effusion, resolved after intercostal drainage (b), later complicated by nonhomogeneous opacities of the left side suggestive of acute respiratory distress syndrome (c) which was cleared subsequently with treatment (d)

Click here to view
Figure 2: Contrast enhanced computed tomography chest revealed multiple miliary nodules in the left lung, consolidation in the right lung with relative subpleural sparing

Click here to view

  Discussion Top

Miliary tuberculosis results from the hematogenous spread of the tubercle bacilli resulting in tiny discrete foci of the size of millet seeds which are distributed uniformly in the lungs and other organs and common among the immunocompromised individuals and 8% in the immunocompetent individuals.[2] Our patient presentation was suggestive of miliary tuberculosis with atypical manifestations in the form of left-sided pleural effusion and complications of acute respiratory distress syndrome. ARDS in miliary tuberculosis is associated with very high mortality 40%–80% despite mechanical ventilation and corticosteroids.[3],[4],[5],[6] The development of the complication during hospital stay allowed aggressive supportive ventilator therapy with the initiation of corticosteroid. Pathologically ARDS in miliary tuberculosis is said to develop due to the release of Mycobacterium or their products into the pulmonary circulation. The predictors of ARDS in tuberculosis includes miliary tuberculosis, duration of illness more than 30 days, elevated serum alanine transferase >100 IU/ml and absolute lymphocyte count <1625/mm 3 for which our patient had the initial three predictors.[7] Another differential diagnosis in such a case was immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (IRIS) which usually occurs after 1–2 weeks of antitubercular therapy, resulting in fever, weight loss, worsening respiratory symptoms, with imaging suggestive of new pulmonary infiltrates and intrathoracic lymph node enlargement. However, since the onset of the respiratory symptoms and signs worsening occurred acutely within 2–3 days, IRIS was not considered and imaging and laboratory finding were more suggestive of an acute respiratory distress syndrome.

Miliary tuberculosis is found to have a fatal course. Corticosteroids in miliary tuberculosis have been found to be beneficial in those with associated tubercular meningitis, ARDS, IRIS, large pericardial effusion, immune complex nephritis, and histiocytic phagocytosis syndrome.[2] The dose of prednisolone used in ARDS with tuberculosis is 40 mg a day for 1 week, followed by 20 mg for 6 weeks which is tapered over 5 months. Studies have shown a reduced mortality in the steroid group compared to the control group but with few studies showing conflicting results.[8],[9]

  Conclusion Top

This case highlights the atypical presentation of miliary tuberculosis which if left untreated is usually fatal, and early recognition of this disease is of great importance acknowledging the important predictors of the complications. In the present era of increased evolving cases of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, tuberculosis should be one of the differential diagnoses in patients presenting for the first time with acute respiratory distress syndrome masking the typical picture of miliary tuberculosis on the chest X-ray.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Sharma SK, Mohan A, Sharma A, Mitra DK. Miliary tuberculosis: New insights into an old disease. Lancet Infect Dis 2005;5:415-30.  Back to cited text no. 1
Sharma SK, Mohan A. Miliary tuberculosis. In: Agarwal AK, editor. Clinical Medical Update-2006. New Delhi: Indian Academy of Clinical Medicine; 2006. p. 353-60.  Back to cited text no. 2
Kim JY, Park YB, Kim YS, Kang SB, Shin JW, Park IW, et al. Miliary tuberculosis and acute respiratory distress syndrome. Int J Tuberc Lung Dis 2003;7:359-64.  Back to cited text no. 3
Tanaka G, Nagai H, Hebisawa A, Kawabe Y, Machida K, Kurashima A, et al. Acute respiratory failure caused by tuberculosis requiring mechanical ventilation. Kekkaku 2000;75:395-401.  Back to cited text no. 4
Jindal SK, Aggarwal AN, Gupta D. Adult respiratory distress syndrome in the tropics. Clin Chest Med 2002;23:445-55.  Back to cited text no. 5
Penner C, Roberts D, Kunimoto D, Manfreda J, Long R. Tuberculosis as a primary cause of respiratory failure requiring mechanical ventilation. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 1995;151 (3 Pt 1):867-72.  Back to cited text no. 6
Sharma SK, Mohan A, Banga A, Saha PK, Guntupalli KK. Predictors of development and outcome in patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome due to tuberculosis. Int J Tuberc Lung Dis 2006;10:429-35.  Back to cited text no. 7
Jantz MA, Sahn SA. Corticosteroids in acute respiratory failure. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 1999;160:1079-100.  Back to cited text no. 8
Ray S, Talukdar A, Kundu S, Khanra D, Sonthalia N. Diagnosis and management of miliary tuberculosis: Current state and future perspectives. Ther Clin Risk Manag 2013;9:9-26.  Back to cited text no. 9


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]

This article has been cited by
1 All Signs Point to Cancer: A Case of Cryptic Miliary Tuberculosis in the Setting of Concomitant Cancer
Victoria Cress,Sue Min Sophia Kwon,Michael T. Ulrich,Mohd Adnan
Case Reports in Infectious Diseases. 2021; 2021: 1
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
2 Extrapulmonary Tuberculosis—An Update on the Diagnosis, Treatment and Drug Resistance
Radha Gopalaswamy,V. N. Azger Dusthackeer,Silambuchelvi Kannayan,Selvakumar Subbian
Journal of Respiration. 2021; 1(2): 141
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
3 Tuberculosis miliar complicada con síndrome de distrés respiratorio y linfohistiocitosis hemofagocítica en un paciente inmunocompetente
Antonio Rosales-Castillo,Miguel Ángel López-Ruz
Medicina Clínica. 2020;
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
5 A case of disseminated tuberculosis mimicking metastatic cancer
K. Chamberlin,S. Orfanos,A. Mukherjee,E. Moy,M. Koganti,W. Khan
Respiratory Medicine Case Reports. 2018; 25: 239
[Pubmed] | [DOI]


Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
 Related articles
Access Statistics
Email Alert *
Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)

  In this article
  Case Report
   Article Figures

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded244    
    Comments [Add]    
    Cited by others 5    

Recommend this journal