Background Little is known about the correlation between microbiological yield and radiographic activity, on chest computed tomography (CT), in suspected pulmonary tuberculosis (PTB) cases, despite CT being widely used, clinically. Methods We used multicenter retrospective data, obtained from medical records, focusing on the diagnostic performance for definite PTB. We categorized patients into four groups, by radiographic activity: definitely active, probably active, indeterminate activity, and probably inactive. Results Of the 650 patients included, 316 had culture-confirmed PTB; 190 (29.2%), 323 (49.7%), 70 (10.8%), and 67 (10.3%) were classified into the definitely active, probably active, indeterminate activity, and probably inactive groups, respectively. The corresponding observed culture rates for CT radiographic activity were 61.6%, 60.7%, 4.3% and 0%, respectively. When not only culture rates but TB-PCR and histological results were taken into consideration as definite PTB, it showed 66.6%, 67.2%, 14.3%, and 0% of each CT radiographic activity, respectively. Regarding the diagnostic performance for definite PTB, radiographic activity displayed high sensitivity (97.1%, 95% confidence interval (CI), 94.6–98.5) and negative predictive values (92.7%, 95% CI, 86.6–96.2), considered definitely and probably active PTB. Apart from PTB, other etiologies, according to radiographic activity, were predominantly respiratory infections such as bacterial pneumonia and non-tuberculous mycobacterial infection. Conclusions Radiographic activity showed good diagnostic performance, and can be used easily in clinical practice. However, clinicians should consider other possibilities, because radiologic images do not confirm microbiological PTB.