Central nervous system infections in immunosuppressed patients are rare but potentially lethal complications that require swift diagnoses and intervention. While the differential diagnosis for new lesions on neuroradiological imaging of immunosuppressed patients typically includes infections and neoplasms, image-based heuristics to differentiate the two has been shown to have variable reliability.
The authors describe 2 rare CNS infections in immunocompromised patients with atypical physical and radiological presentations. In the first case, a 59-year-old man, who had recently undergone a renal transplantation, was found to have multifocal Nocardia amikacinitolerans abscesses masquerading as neoplasms on diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI); in the second case, a 33-year-old man with suspected recurrent Hodgkin’s lymphoma was found to have a nonpyogenic abscess with cytomegalovirus (CMV) encephalitis.
As per review of the literature, this appears to be the first case of brain abscess caused by N. amikacinitolerans, a recently isolated superbug. Despite confirmation through brain biopsy later on in case 1, the initial radiological appearance was atypical, showing subtle diffusion restriction on DWI. Similarly, the authors present a case of CMV encephalitis that presented as a ring-enhancing lesion, which is extremely rare. Both cases draw attention to the reliability of neuroimaging in differentiating an abscess from a neoplasm.