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Atypical presentation of cutaneous tuberculosis and a retropharyngeal neck abscess

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January 1, 2006
by Frank O. Agada, FRCS; Ravi Sharma, FRCS; Zvoru G.G. Makura, FRCS
A 70-year-old Asian man with noninsulin-dependent diabetes presented with a 4-month history of left-sided otitis externa and right-sided facial palsy. Physical examination of the left ear revealed a punched-out ulcerative lesion on the tragus, an edematous and inflamed external auditory canal, and a purulent nonmucoid discharge. Computed tomography of the brain and neck demonstrated a large retropharyngeal abscess, an abscess in the left parapharyngeal space, and a small collection adjacent to the right carotid sheath at the level of C4; the cervical vertebrae and lungs were normal. Microscopy of drained pus and histology of left ear and neck node biopsies identified tuberculosis. The patient was started on antituberculosis drug therapy, but he died within 2 weeks of treatment. We discuss the characteristics of this unusual presentation of tuberculosis infection.

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