Pericardial involvement in human immunodeficiency virus infection

Chest. 1999 Feb;115(2):418-22. doi: 10.1378/chest.115.2.418.


Study objectives: Previous studies have showed that the pericardium is frequently involved in HIV infection. However, the characteristics and etiology of the pericardial abnormalities that have been found remained poorly defined. We analyzed the features of pericardial involvement in these patients and investigated the clinical variables associated with moderate and severe effusions.

Design: Prospective, clinical, and echocardiographic study.

Setting: The service of infectious diseases of a university hospital.

Patients: 181 consecutive patients at all stages of HIV infection.

Results: Only one patient (0.55%) had acute pericarditis. Seventy-five patients (41%) had an asymptomatic pericardial effusion; in 23 patients (13% of all patients), the effusion was either moderate or severe. Ten cases (5.5% of all patients) of moderate or severe effusions resulted in right atrium diastolic compression, and three of these cases (1.6% of all patients) required pericardiocentesis for the management of tamponade. Six patients (3%) presented with echogenic pericardial masses of undetermined etiology. A moderate or severe effusion was present in a greater number of patients with symptomatic HIV infection than was present in asymptomatic HIV-infected patients, respectively: 17 vs 2% (p = 0.015). The following are variables independently associated with moderate or severe pericardial effusions: heart failure (odds ratio, 20.3; p = 0.0001); Kaposi's sarcoma (odds ratio, 8.6; p = 0.01), tuberculosis (TB; odds ratio, 47.2; p = 0.0006); and other pulmonary infections (odds ratio,15.0; p = 0.02).

Conclusions: Most of these moderate or severe effusions are clinically unsuspected, but they can lead to life-threatening tamponade. This fact seems to justify echocardiographic surveillance in HIV-infected patients, especially in those with heart failure, Kaposi's sarcoma, TB, or other pulmonary infections.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cardiac Tamponade / etiology
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / complications*
  • Heart Diseases / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pericardial Effusion / etiology
  • Pericardium*
  • Prospective Studies