OBJECTIVE--To assess the efficacy of a short course chemotherapy regimen for treating tuberculosis of the lymph nodes in children. DESIGN--Open, collaborative, outpatient clinical trial. SETTING--Outpatient department of the Tuberculosis Research Centre, paediatric surgery departments of the Institute of Child Health and Hospital for Children and the Government Stanley Hospital, Madras, South India. PATIENTS--Children aged 1-12 years with extensive, multiple site, superficial tuberculous lymphadenitis confirmed by biopsy (histopathology or culture). INTERVENTIONS--Patients were treated with a fully supervised intermittent chemotherapy regimen consisting of streptomycin, rifampicin, isoniazid, and pyrazinamide three times a week for two months followed by streptomycin and isoniazid twice a week for four months on an outpatient basis. Surgery was limited to biopsy of nodes for diagnosis and assessment. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Response to chemotherapy was assessed by regression of lymph nodes and healing of sinuses and abscesses during treatment and follow up. Compliance with treatment and frequency of adverse reactions were also estimated. RESULTS--197 Patients were admitted to the study and 168 into the analysis. The regimen was well tolerated and compliance was good with 101 (60%) patients receiving the prescribed chemotherapy within 15 days of the stipulated period of six months. Those whose chemotherapy extended beyond that period received the same total number of doses. Clinical response was favourable in most patients at the end of treatment. Sinuses and abscesses healed rapidly. Residual lymphadenopathy (exceeding 10 mm diameter) was present in 50 (30%) patients at the end of treatment; these nodes were biopsied. Fresh nodes, increase in size of nodes, and sinuses and abscesses occurred both during treatment and follow up. After 36 months of follow up after treatment only 5 (3%) patients required retreatment for tuberculosis. CONCLUSION--Tuberculous lymphadenitis in children can be successfully treated with a short course chemotherapy regimen of six months.