U.K. revisits use of x-ray vans for TB screening

March 4, 2005

The return of chest x-ray tuberculosis screening vans to U.K. streets after a 40-year hiatus seems likely. In a pilot trial, Dr. Alastair Story and colleagues acquired 577 chest x-rays from men at three London hostels, two drop-in centers, and a prison. They referred 23 cases for further investigation, three of which turned out to be active TB. This equates to a TB rate of 520 per 100,000, compared with the national rate of 13 per 100,000.

The return of chest x-ray tuberculosis screening vans to U.K. streets after a 40-year hiatus seems likely. In a pilot trial, Dr. Alastair Story and colleagues acquired 577 chest x-rays from men at three London hostels, two drop-in centers, and a prison. They referred 23 cases for further investigation, three of which turned out to be active TB. This equates to a TB rate of 520 per 100,000, compared with the national rate of 13 per 100,000.

"Sometimes you are only going to get one chance at screening. You can make the diagnosis there and then, with the person right there. You can tune your index of suspicion to a level where you are not inundating the local services with unnecessary referrals," Story said at the British Thoracic Society meeting in November.

The U.K. department of health is evaluating how digital x-ray vans can help control infection rates, their economic viability, their impact of likely referrals on local chest clinics, and acceptability to the target population.