Tuberculosis of acromioclavicular joint: a case report
Osteoarticular tuberculosis is a great masquerader presenting in varied forms and in atypical locations, and it is prone to misdiagnosis and missed diagnosis. Isolated acromioclavicular joint tuberculosis has been reported rarely.
A 19-year-old man presented with a chronic, mild pain, non-healing ulcer in right shoulder. Imaging of the shoulder revealed destruction of the acromioclavicular joint and histopathology confirmed the diagnosis of acromioclavicular tuberculosis. The patient underwent debridement, synovectomy and drainage of the abscess and recovered well with antitubercular therapy postoperatively.
Awareness of this uncommon presentation of osteoarticular tuberculosis may assist in earlier diagnosis. Especially, in endemic countries, osteoarticular tuberculosis should be considered as a differential diagnosis in all atypical presentations to avoid residual problems.
KeywordsTuberculosis Osteoarticular tuberculosis Acromioclavicular joint Arthritis
Acid fast bacilli
Erythrocyte sedimentation rate
Human immunodeficiency virus
Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Purified protein derivative
Spectral adiabatic inversion recovery
Vacuum sealing drainage
Tuberculosis is a refractory disorder that can easily lead to loss of workforce. The osteoarticular tuberculosis accounts for a small percentage of tuberculosis. It presents diagnosis and management challenges for its usually combined with atypical presentations, especially when involves the non-weight bearing joints. There have been less than 10 relevant case reports about acromioclavicular joint tuberculosis, and it is prone to misdiagnosis and missed diagnosis. We present our rare osteoarticular tuberculosis case in the acromioclavicular joint.
A 19-year-old man presented to our outpatient department with mild pain and swelling at the right shoulder for 3 weeks. There was no preceding history of trauma. The pain, mild in intensity, increased during shoulder movement. There was no history of fevers, night sweats and weight loss. And no previous history of tuberculosis or contact with persons suffering tuberculosis was recorded. The lesion started as a papule and ulcerated with copious purulent discharge for 10 days when the patient presented to our department. Dressing change and anti-infective drug (cephalosporin) were proved ineffective in other hospitals.
On physical examination, there was mild tenderness present over the anterior aspect of the right shoulder. A sinus was seen at the distal of the clavicle, sized 1.5 cm × 2.0 cm, 2.0 cm in-depth, with a purulent base, surrounding erythema and induration. There was a lot of canary yellow purulent discharge in the sinus. Full active range of motion was observed at the shoulder. There were no palpable lymph nodes and systemic examination did not reveal any abnormalities.
Routine blood investigations were normal, except for a raised erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) of 43 mm/h and C-reactive protein (CRP) of 39.1 mg/L. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) serological examination was negative. Canary yellow pus, found in the cavity, was sent for culture and Ziehl-Neelsen (ZN) stain to detect tubercle bacillus. However, no growth in culture and none acid fast bacilli (AFB) were seen. The sputum smear for AFB examined was negative, but detection of tuberculosis infection by T cell and purified protein derivative (PPD) skin test were positive, so presumptive therapy for tuberculosis disease was initiated: the patient was commenced on Rifampicin (RIF) and Isoniazid (INH) daily.
Osteoarticular tuberculosis occurs mostly in the weight-bearing and vulnerable area. The most common site is vertebral column, followed by knee and hip joint [1, 2], which account for more than 95% of all cases . The incidence of osteoarticular tuberculosis in the upper extremities is low, and that of acromioclavicular joint is rare. The first case of acromioclavicular joint tuberculosis was reported in 1950 , in a series of 1074 unusual lesions of tuberculosis, there was just one case of acromial end of clavicle involvement. Since the first acromioclavicular joint tuberculosis was reported, there have been less than 10 relevant case reports.
In the past, osteoarticular tuberculosis was usually secondary to pulmonary tuberculosis , and primary tuberculosis lesions were often found. In absence of pulmonary lesions, osteoarticular tuberculosis may not come to mind as the first diagnosis . However, the epidemic tendency of osteoarticular tuberculosis is changing according to clinical reports in recent years. Most patients did not accompany by pulmonary tuberculosis and systemic symptoms , resulting in more difficult diagnosis of osteoarticular tuberculosis. It was prone to misdiagnosis and missed diagnosis, especially unusual lesions of tuberculosis. According to the report , the most common manifestations were longstanding pain and functional loss in 83% unusual lesions of osteoarticular tuberculosis, which were often difficult to distinguish from osteoarthritis. In some cases, painless cold abscess can be the only clinical manifestation for a long period of time . In a retrospective study , out of 16 patients of glenohumeral tubercular osteoarthritis 14 were misdiagnosed as frozen shoulder, and the mean prediagnostic time period to come to a correct diagnosis was 14.5 months. The delayed diagnosis resulted in poor prognosis of joint function.
The incidence of isolated acromioclavicular joint tuberculosis is extremely low. The disease is occult and has no typical tuberculosis symptoms, and it may present with symptoms of painless swelling of the joint or as a discharging sinus [8, 9]. Although the joint is swollen, the skin is mostly without redness and fever, which is different from common bacterial infection: this feature is the characteristic of tuberculous arthritis . In this case, the lesion started as a papule with mild pain that subsequently ulcerated with purulent discharge, and antibiotic therapy was ineffective. Than we considered the possibility of tuberculosis, and completed imaging, cytology, pathology and other related examinations as soon as possible. Because of timely diagnosis and treatment, the patient avoided loss of joint function.
Imaging examination is an important method to diagnose osteoarticular tuberculosis, especially the application of MRI, which may help in the early diagnosis of tuberculosis and differentiation from osteomyelitis [10, 11]. Because MRI can show the severity of tuberculosis and has the characteristics of noninvasive and convenient, it plays an increasingly important role in the diagnosis of osteoarticular tuberculosis [12, 13]. In addition, it is essential to keep a high level of suspicion of tuberculosis at rare sites in order to make an early diagnosis [2, 14]. Tuberculosis should be considered as a differential diagnosis in all atypical presentations of osteoarthrosis, especially in China and India which remain as on the high burden country list for tuberculosis by WHO . But Mittal R et al.  thought that although the presentation was as a lytic lesion with periarticular osteoporosis on radiography, the definitive diagnosis of osteoarticular tuberculosis was only made based on histological or bacteriological confirmation.
Debridement is a common method to treat osteoarticular tuberculosis, especially for early tuberculosis . We believe that this operation is one of the most effective methods for the treatment of acromioclavicular joint tuberculosis, because this site is non-weight bearing and micro-motion joint, bone defect after debridement has little effect on function of the joint. Thorough debridement is the key to good prognosis. It is not recommended to suture directly if the wound is large and has much exudation, and VSD can be applied to continuous drainage after debridement. The drainage of secretions by VSD is more unobstructed than routine dressing change, which is beneficial to wound healing. In addition, it should be combined with standardized and continuous anti-tubercular chemotherapy to reduce the recurrence of tuberculosis.
Osteoarticular tuberculosis is a great masquerader presenting in varied forms and in atypical locations. With the change of tuberculosis prevalence, osteoarticular tuberculosis can be a primary and isolated lesion, without active pulmonary tuberculosis or previous history of tuberculosis. Isolated acromioclavicular joint tuberculosis has been reported rarely and it is prone to misdiagnosis and missed diagnosis. For unexplained joint swelling and chronic shoulder pain, it is essential to keep tuberculosis in mind when conventional treatment is ineffective. This case demonstrates how clinical index of suspicion, appropriate and timely imaging examinations, and prompt surgical intervention result in optimum outcome. It can be said that in an endemic country, osteoarticular tuberculosis should be considered as a differential diagnosis in all atypical presentations in order to make early diagnosis which avoids residual problems.
We thank Qi Zhang, M.D. (from the Affiliated Xuzhou Hospital of Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine, Jiangsu province, China) for help in English editing.
No funding was received related to the subject of this article.
Availability of data and materials
The datasets used and analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.
J C performed the operation on the patient, and was a major contributor in writing the manuscript; Sm F performed the imaging examination for the patient; Wl H performed the histological examination of necrotic tissues; Hn L analyzed the patient data and performed the operation on the patient; Hh F participated in the diagnosis and treatment of the patient, and was a major contributor in diagnosis of disease; he was the corresponding author; All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
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Consent for publication
The patient had given his consent for information about himself to be published in BMC Infectious Diseases, and the consent obtained was written. The written informed consent for publication of his clinical details and clinical images was obtained from the patient.[corresponding author: Huanhuan Feng].
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
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