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Lung Disease & Respiratory Health Center

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Tuberculosis Patient Treated in Denver

Treatment May Take Months; Patient Asks Forgiveness From His Fellow Fliers

Typical Tuberculosis Treatment

Today, doctors treat most people with TB outside the hospital. Gone are the days of going to the mountains for long periods of bed rest. Speaker is being treated in the hospital due to his rare and treatment-resistant strain of TB.

Doctors seldom use surgery. But when the bacteria are resistant to standard treatment, surgery is sometimes necessary to remove a pocket of bacteria in the lungs or in another part of the body.

Typically, tuberculosis treatment involves taking several special antibiotics for six to nine months. Treatment takes that long because the bacteria grow very slowly and, unfortunately, also die very slowly. Doctors use multiple drugs to reduce the likelihood of resistant bacteria emerging. Often the drugs will be changed or chosen based on laboratory results showing which antibiotics are most effective against the TB bacteria.

The most common cause of tuberculosis treatment failure is people's failure to take the medication as prescribed. This may lead to the development of drug-resistant organisms. Patients must take their medications as directed, even if they’re feeling better.

If doctors doubt that a patient is taking the medicine properly, they may have the patient come to the office for doses - called directly observed therapy.

Due to the fact that tuberculosis can be highly contagious, particularly if the patient has symptoms, such as a cough and fever, doctors or public health officials usually contact or trace the patient’s relatives and friends. Relatives and friends may need to undergo appropriate skin tests and chest X-rays to determine if they have been exposed to TB.

  • What health precautions do you take when you fly Share your ideas on WebMD's message boards.

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