Spinal cord lesions in the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)

Neurosurg Rev. 1990;13(3):189-94. doi: 10.1007/BF00313017.


Spinal cord involvement in AIDS is not uncommon. Different types of lesions corresponding to varying pathogenetic mechanisms have been reported. Vacuolar myelopathy is the most frequently found. The symptoms and pathological changes resemble those of subacute combined degeneration; however, cobalamine or folate levels have always been found normal. Its frequent association with the multi-nucleated giant cells characteristic of HIV encephalitis makes it likely that the virus plays a role in its pathogenesis. Cytomegalovirus may be responsible for acute myeloradiculitis involving the spinal roots of the cauda equina and inferior part of the spinal cord. In cases of Herpes simplex virus myelitis has been reported; they are usually associated with cytomegalovirus infection and are due to herpes simplex virus type II. Secondary spread from systemic lymphomas may involve the subarachnoid space of the cord and the spinal roots. Compression of the spinal cord by epidural lymphomatous masses has also been described. Spinal infarcts may be secondary to acute or chronic vasculitis or to less specific vascular processes such as disseminated intravascular coagulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / complications*
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / etiology
  • Humans
  • Lymphoma / etiology
  • Myelitis / etiology
  • Opportunistic Infections / etiology
  • Radiculopathy / etiology
  • Spinal Cord / pathology
  • Spinal Cord Diseases / etiology*
  • Spinal Cord Diseases / pathology
  • Spinal Cord Neoplasms / etiology
  • Vacuoles / pathology