My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Ask Your Question

WebMD Answers

120 Characters remaining
120 Characters remaining
  • First, try and keep your question as short as possible.
  • Include specific words that will help us identify questions that may already have your answer.
  • If you don't find your answer, you can post your question to WebMD Experts and Contributors.


Posted: | Report This Report Question |

How are tuberculosis skin test results interpreted?

Related Topics: PPD Skin Test

Answers From Experts & Organizations (1)

5,093 Answers
267,399 Helpful Votes

The basis of the reading of the skin test is the presence or absence and the amount of induration (localized swelling). The diameter of the induration should be measured transversely (for example, perpendicular) to the long axis of the forearm and recorded in millimeters. The area of induration (palpable, raised, hardened area) around the site of injection is the reaction to tuberculin. It is important to note that redness is not measured.

A tuberculin reaction is classified as positive based on the diameter of the induration in conjunction with certain patient-specific risk factors. In a healthy person whose immune system is normal, induration greater than or equal to 15 mm is considered a positive skin test. If blisters are present (vesiculation), the test is also considered positive. In a person with underlying kidney disease, diabetes, or a health-care worker or personal contact of someone with active TB, 10 mm of induration is considered a positive skin test. In patients who are immunocompromised, such as people with rheumatoid arthritis or Crohn's disease, 5 mm of induration is considered a positive skin test result. Induration of less than 2 mm, without blistering, is considered a negative skin test.

On the other hand, a negative test does not always mean that a person is free of tuberculosis. People who have been infected with TB may not have a positive skin test (known as a false negative result) if their immune function is compromised by chronic medical conditions, cancer chemotherapy, or AIDS. Additionally, 10%-25% of people with newly diagnosed tuberculosis of the lungs will also have a negative result, possibly due to poor immune function, poor nutrition, accompanying viral infection, or steroid therapy. Over 50% of patients with widespread, disseminated TB (spread throughout the body, known as miliary TB) will also have a negative TB test.

A person who received a BCG vaccine (administered in some countries but not the U.S.) against tuberculosis may also have a positive skin reaction to the TB test, although this is not always the case. This is an example of a false positive result. The positive reaction that is due to the vaccine may persist for years. Those who were vaccinated after the first year of life or who had more than one dose of the vaccine have the greatest likelihood of having a persistent positive result than those who were vaccinated as infants.

This answer should not be considered medical advice...down arrowThis answer should not be considered medical advice and should not take the place of a doctor’s visit. Please see the bottom of the page for more information or visit our Terms and Conditions.up arrow

| Report This Report Answer
Archived: March 20, 2014

Was this helpful?


Thanks for your feedback.

268 of 412 found this helpful
Read the Original Article: Tuberculosis Skin Test (PPD Skin Test)