AIDS-related focal brain lesions in the era of highly active antiretroviral therapy

Adriana Ammassari, A. Cingolani, P. Pezzotti, A. De Luca, R. Murri, M. L. Giancola, L. M. Larocca, A. Antinori

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To compare the years since the introduction of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) with the pre-HAART era for trends in the proportions of HIV-related focal brain lesion-causing disorders. Methods: A prospective, single-center study of all consecutive HIV-infected patients with a neurologic presentation and focal brain lesions observed between January 1991 and December 1998 was undertaken. Results: The major diagnoses in the 281 patients were toxoplasmic encephalitis (36.4%), primary CNS lymphoma (26.7%), progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (18.2%), and focal HIV encephalopathy (5.0%). During the HAART period, patients were less likely to be male, contracted HIV more often through heterosexual exposure, had fewer previous AIDS-defining events, received anti-Toxoplasma prophylaxis less frequently, had a CD4+ lymphocyte count 2.5 times higher, and had diagnosis based more often on PCR assays from CSF, reducing the need for brain biopsy and enhancing the likelihood of in vivo diagnosis. Using all patients hospitalized per year as reference population, the risk of focal brain lesions strongly increased during the pre-HAART period and declined significantly during the HAART years. In the HAART period a relevant decline of primary CNS lymphoma was found (OR for 1998, 0.25; p for trend = 0.03) and the effect of progressive calendar year was confirmed on multivariable analysis (OR, 0.52; 95% CI, 0.28 to 0.97). The frequency of toxoplasmic encephalitis decreased during the pre-HAART era and was stable afterwards. For progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, a slight increase was seen over time. Focal white matter lesions without enhancement or mass effect increased between 1991 and 1998. Conclusions: During the HAART era, AIDS-related primary CNS lymphoma showed a strong decline, toxoplasmic encephalitis remained stable, and progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy showed a slight increase. Focal white matter lesions without mass effect or contrast enhancement became the most frequently seen focal brain lesion. For differential diagnosis, PCR-based assays from CSF led to a shift from brain biopsy toward a minimally invasive approach with an augmented likelihood of in vivo diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1194-1200
Number of pages7
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Oct 24 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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