The histopathology of 103 consecutive colonoscopy biopsies from 82 symptomatic patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome: original and look-back diagnoses

Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2001 Aug;125(8):1042-6. doi: 10.5858/2001-125-1042-THOCCB.


Objective: To compare the primary diagnoses assigned by general surgical pathologists on a series of 103 consecutive colon biopsies from individuals infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) with diagnoses rendered by a pathologist with extensive experience in gastrointestinal pathology in HIV/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.

Design: New sections were cut from paraffin blocks of 103 consecutive colon biopsies taken during colonoscopies of 82 different HIV-infected patients; all new sections were stained with hematoxylin-eosin. These individuals either had negative stool studies or had failed to respond to therapy and had chronic large bowel symptoms, such as frequent small volume-type diarrhea, tenesmus, and/or bright red blood per rectum. Immunohistochemistry for cytomegalovirus (CMV) was performed on 18 of 22 specimens originally diagnosed with CMV colitis.

Results: The initial study yielded 70 (68%) negative or nonspecific diagnoses, 22 (21%) cases of CMV colitis, 5 (5%) Cryptosporidium diagnoses, 2 cases each of adenomatous polyps and Kaposi sarcoma, and 1 case each of spirochetosis and squamous cell carcinoma of the anorectum. Review of the recuts yielded 64 (62%) negative or nonspecific diagnoses, 12 (12%) new adenovirus infections (3 combined with CMV), and 11 (11%) lone CMV infections. Three attaching and effacing bacterial infections were diagnosed, 1 with adenovirus coinfection. A total of 4 spirochetosis cases were found on review. Seven (7%) of the biopsies showed at least 1 coinfection. Nine biopsies had features suggestive of inflammatory bowel disease.

Conclusions: Colonoscopy with biopsy after negative stool studies or failure to respond to therapy yielded a high proportion of negative or nonspecific diagnoses. Adenovirus and enteropathogenic bacterial infections had been totally overlooked on initial examination. It takes particular experience to evaluate gastrointestinal biopsies from HIV-infected patients.

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / complications
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / pathology*
  • Adenomatous Polyposis Coli / pathology
  • Adenoviridae Infections / pathology
  • Bacterial Infections / pathology
  • Biopsy
  • Colitis / microbiology
  • Colitis / pathology
  • Colitis / virology
  • Colon / pathology*
  • Colonic Diseases / parasitology
  • Colonic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Colonoscopy*
  • Cryptosporidiosis / pathology
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / pathology
  • Humans
  • Sarcoma, Kaposi / pathology