Neuroimaging in Human Imunodeficiency Virus Infection

Bruno Costa Gomes, Joana Nunes, Joana Pinto, Paula Gouveia, Rui Pedro Pais


Introduction: Central Nervous System (CNS) infection by Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) occurs early in the course of the disease and is associated with changes that can reach any level of the neuroaxis. Neuroimaging plays an increasingly important role both in diagnosis and in longitudinal monitoring of these complications, which can be divided into three major categories: injuries directly associated with HIV, opportunistic infections and malignancies.

Objectives: To identify and to describe the neuroradiological changes found in a population of HIV positive patients.

Methods: Retrospective study with analysis of clinical processes and review of neuroimaging studies of HIV positive patients admitted to the Centro Hospitalar de Coimbra - E.P.E. in the period between 1st January 2008 and 31st March 2011.

Results: During the study period we identified 337 episodes of hospitalization of patients with HIV infection, accounting for a total of 196 patients. Of these, 88 underwent at least one neuroimaging examination, with a mean age of 47.1 (27-89) years, of which 75% were males. In 12.5% of the examinations we did not find any relevant changes. In 69.3% atrophy was observed, in 31.2% sequelae lesions with different aetiologies (vascular, infectious), and eight cases of HIV encephalitis were identified. In 19.3% of patients it was diagnosed the presence of an opportunistic infection (11 cases of toxoplasmosis, four of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, one case of tuberculosis and one of neurosyphilis). There were also 10 cases with evidence of recent vascular lesions. Although considered in the differential diagnosis in some cases, in our sample we did not identify any case of tumours.

Conclusions: Recognition of CNS changes associated with HIV infection and of their imaging patterns is of critical importance to the establishment of the diagnosis and to the appropriate treatment. Advanced techniques of Magnetic Resonance Imaging may have an important role in this context.

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