Imaging of the brain in patients with human immunodeficiency virus infection

Top Magn Reson Imaging. 2014 Oct;23(5):275-91. doi: 10.1097/RMR.0000000000000031.


Neurologic disease in acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) patients is related either to opportunistic pathogens or to direct central nervous system (CNS) invasion by the human immunodeficiency virus. Despite the increasing availability of antiretroviral therapy, opportunistic infections continue to afflict patients in the developing world and in other populations with limited access to appropriate treatment. Classic CNS infections in the setting of AIDS include toxoplasmosis, cryptococcosis, progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, and cytomegalovirus encephalitis. Additionally, AIDS patients are far more susceptible to acquiring CNS tuberculosis and neurosyphilis, both of which exhibit altered disease characteristics in the setting of immunosuppression. Neuroimaging is a crucial component of the diagnostic work-up of these conditions, and findings include, but are not limited to, intracranial mass lesions, white matter disease, meningoencephalitis, vascular complications, and hydrocephalus. Though various disease processes can produce imaging findings that overlap with one another, certain characteristic patterns may suggest a particular pathogen, and advanced imaging techniques and laboratory tests allow for definitive diagnosis. Knowledge of the imaging patterns seen in the setting of AIDS-related CNS disease is vital to the neuroradiologist, whose interpretation may guide decisions related to treatment and further work-up.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • AIDS-Related Opportunistic Infections / diagnosis*
  • AIDS-Related Opportunistic Infections / therapy
  • Central Nervous System Infections / diagnosis*
  • Central Nervous System Infections / microbiology
  • Central Nervous System Infections / therapy
  • Female
  • HIV-1 / isolation & purification
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Neuroimaging / methods
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*