Purpose: Little information is available concerning the clinical importance of cerebral infarction in patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). The purpose of this retrospective study was two-fold: (1) to determine the frequency and clinical characteristics of cerebral infarction and transient neurologic deficits (TNDs) among patients with AIDS; and (2) to identify specific patient subgroups at risk for such complications and whether there were underlying associated diseases requiring specific therapy.
Patients and methods: Neurology inpatient and consult service records, neuropathology reports, and the University of California, San Francisco, AIDS computerized registry were used in identifying study cases. Information on demographic background, associated clinical diagnoses, presenting neurologic symptoms and signs, laboratory results, pathologic findings, and clinical follow-up was obtained from each patient's medical record.
Results: Twenty-five patients with AIDS (mean age, 38) having clinical or pathologic findings suggestive of focal cerebral ischemia or infarction were identified. Ten patients had non-hemorrhagic cerebral infarctions, 13 had acute TNDs, and two had both. Cerebral infarction was associated with central nervous system (CNS) infections (cryptococcus, four; tuberculosis, one; zoster vasculitis, one) and cardiogenic embolism (one). TNDs were associated with toxoplasmosis (four), cerebral infarction (two), cryptococcal meningitis (one), vasculitis (one), and CNS Kaposi's sarcoma (one). A presumptive cause was absent in five cases of cerebral infarction and eight of TND. All five patients with pathologically proven macroscopic cerebral infarcts were diagnosed clinically before death.
Conclusions: We conclude the following: (1) AIDS patients, especially given their young age, appear to be increased risk for cerebral infarction and TND. (2) Cerebral infarction and TND may be the initial presentation of AIDS. (3) TND and cerebral infarction often signify treatable CNS infection among AIDS patients. (4) The causes of AIDS-related cerebral infarction and TND are unknown in many cases.