Use of CT and MR imaging to distinguish intracranial lesions and to define the need for biopsy in AIDS patients

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✓ To explore the potential usefulness of imaging studies in the diagnosis of focal central nervous system (CNS) lesions associated with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), the authors retrospectively examined the radiographic studies of 149 AIDS patients who presented with signs and symptoms of the three most common focal CNS lesions. Of these patients, 74 (50%) had Toxoplasma abscesses, 45 (30%) had primary CNS lymphoma, and 30 patients (20%) had progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML). Magnetic resonance (MR) imaging was more sensitive than computerized tomography (CT) in detecting lesions, especially in cases of PML. Whereas CT was unable to distinguish mass lesions caused by toxoplasmosis from those caused by lymphoma, 71% of the solitary lesions seen on MR images were lymphomas. These results indicate that empirical treatment for toxoplasmosis, the most common initial treatment for AIDS patients with neurological symptoms stemming from mass lesions, is not likely to be successful for patients with solitary lesions on MR images. Rather, early biopsy is advisable. If the presence of lymphoma is confirmed, the rapid initiation of treatment can allow prolonged high-quality survival.

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Address reprint requests to: Mark L. Rosenblum, M.D., Department of Neurological Surgery, c/o The Editorial Office, 1360 Ninth Avenue, Suite 210, San Francisco, California 94122.

© AANS, except where prohibited by US copyright law.

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