Journal of Clinical Microbiology
American Society for Microbiology
Prompt laboratory reporting of tuberculosis (TB) test results is necessary for TB control. To understand the extent of and factors contributing to laboratory reporting delays and the impact of reporting delays on initiation of treatment of TB patients, we analyzed data from 300 consecutive culture-positive TB cases reported in four California counties in 1998. Laboratory reporting to the specimen submitter was delayed for 26.9% of smear-positive patients and 46.8% of smear-negative patients. Delays were associated with the type of laboratory that performed the testing and with delayed transport of specimens. Referral laboratories (public health and commercial) had longer median reporting time frames than hospital and health maintenance organization laboratories. Among patients whose treatment was not started until specimens were collected, those with delayed laboratory reporting were more likely to have delayed treatment than patients with no laboratory reporting delays (odds ratio [OR] of 3.9 and 95% confidence interval [CI] of 1.6 to 9.7 for smear-positive patients and OR of 13.1 and CI of 5.3 to 32.2 for smear-negative patients). This relation remained after adjustment in a multivariate model for other factors associated with treatment delays (adjusted OR of 25.64 and CI of 7.81 to 83.33 for smear-negative patients). These findings emphasize the need to reduce times of specimen transfer between institutions and to ensure rapid communication among laboratories, health care providers, and health departments serving TB patients.