Skip navigation

Scrofula

Scrofula is a tuberculous infection of the lymph nodes in the neck.

Causes

Scrofula in adults is most often caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis. In children, can also be caused by Mycobacterium scrofulaceum or Mycobacterium avium.

Infection with mycobacteria is usually caused by breathing in air that is contaminated by these organisms.

Symptoms

Exams and Tests

Tests to diagnose scrofula include:

  • Biopsy of affected tissue
  • Chest x-rays
  • CT scan of the neck
  • Cultures to check for the bacteria in tissue samples taken from the lymph nodes
  • HIV blood test
  • PPD test 
  • Other tests for TB

Treatment

When infection is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, treatment usually involves 9 - 12 months of antibiotics. Several antibiotics need to be used at once. Common antibiotics for scrofula include:

  • Ethambutol
  • Isoniazid (INH)
  • Pyrazinamide
  • Rifampin

When infection is caused by another type of mycobacteria (which often occurs in children), treatment usually involves antibiotics such as rifampin, ethambutol, and clarithromycin.

Surgery is sometimes used first. It may also be used if medications are not working.

Outlook (Prognosis)

With treatment, patients usually make a complete recovery.

Possible Complications

  • Draining sore in the neck
  • Scarring

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if your child has a swelling or group of swellings in the neck. Scrofula can occur in children who have not been exposed to someone with tuberculosis.

Prevention

People who have been exposed to someone with tuberculosis of the lungs should have a PPD test.

Alternative Names

Tuberculous adenitis

References

Ellner JJ. Tuberculosis. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 332.

Fitzgerald DW, Sterling TR, Haas DW. Mycobacterium tuberculosis. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2009:chap 250.

Update Date: 10/6/2012

Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

MedlinePlus Topics

Read More

A.D.A.M Quality Logo

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch).

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 1997-2014, A.D.A.M., Inc. Duplication for commercial use must be authorized in writing by ADAM Health Solutions.

A.D.A.M Logo