Introduction: Large population studies of adult patients suggest an incidence of cytomegalovirus (CMV) retinitis as high as 19% to 20% as a late complication of adult HIV infection. We conducted this prospective study of a large cohort of HIV-infected children to determine the incidence of CMV retinitis in HIV-infected children.
Methods: From January 1984 to August 1997, 173 HIV-infected children were followed up for an average of 55.3 months (13-164 months). The patients were seen in the Department of Pediatrics at least once every 6 months. Ophthalmologic examinations were initiated when a patient's CD4 count dropped below 50 or sooner if required for ophthalmologic or other indications. Ophthalmologic examination was then repeated every 6 months.
Results: A total of 116 (67%) of 173 patients underwent ophthalmologic examination. Four (3.4%) of 116 patients had CMV retinitis at a mean time of 17.3 months (8-38 months) after their CD4 counts dropped below 20. None of the 4 patients with CMV retinitis had subjective visual complaints despite advanced retinitis. Three patients had bilateral and 1 patient had unilateral CMV retinitis.
Conclusions: CMV retinitis occurred infrequently in HIV-infected pediatric patients and was diagnosed only in patients with a CD4 count below 20. Routine ophthalmologic screening examinations may not be necessary in pediatric patients until the CD4 count is below 20. Because children may not complain of decreased vision, at-risk children should undergo frequent ophthalmologic examination.