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Painful thoracic swelling in a refugee teenager
  1. Alessandro Agostino Occhipinti1,
  2. Stefano Di Bella1,
  3. Ferruccio Degrassi1,
  4. Gianluca Tornese2,
  5. Maria Assunta Cova1,
  6. Egidio Barbi2
  1. 1 Dipartimento di Scienze Mediche Chirurgiche e della Salute, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Università degli Studi di Trieste, Trieste, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy, Trieste, Italy
  2. 2 Department of Paediatrics, Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico materno infantile Burlo Garofolo, Trieste, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy
  1. Correspondence to Dr Alessandro Agostino Occhipinti, Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico materno infantile Burlo Garofolo, Trieste 34137, Italy; alexander82{at}


Case A 14-year-old refugee, escaping from a Middle East war zone, was admitted with a 3-month history of chest pain and a 2-week history of sternal swelling. The patient had no previous medical history, but reported having been beaten by a policeman at a border at the beginning of his journey. He did not have the following symptoms: cough, wheezing fever, weight loss and sweating. When he was admitted to the hospital, he was afebrile; blood pressure was 120/70 mm Hg, pulse 95 beats per minute and oxygen saturation 97% while breathing ambient air. On physical examination, there was a 10 cm fluctuating swelling in the sternal region. The lesion was reddish, warm, tender and painful (figure 1). Digital clubbing was also noticed. The remaining examination was normal. White blood cell count was 9000 cells per mm3, haemoglobin 145 g/L, erythrocyte sedimentation rate and C reactive protein were normal as well as renal and liver function tests. ECG was regular.

Figure 1

Swelling in the sternal region.

Question 1 Based on the clinical picture, laboratory tests and history, what is the most likely diagnosis?

  1. Chest wall tuberculosis

  2. Lymphoma

  3. Thoracic actinomycosis

  4. Infected haematoma

Question 2 Which is the best diagnostic test to confirm this diagnosis?

  1. Ultrasound scan

  2. MRI

  3. CT

  4. Chest radiograph

Question 3 What is the mainstay of the management of this condition?

  1. Drainage of the abscess

  2. Antitubercular chemotherapy

  3. Aspiration of the abscess and antitubercular chemotherapy

  4. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy

Answers can be found on page 02.

  • adolescent health
  • child abuse
  • microbiology
  • pathology
  • therapeutics

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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.