Aspergillosis of the brain and paranasal sinuses in immunocompromised patients: CT and MR imaging findings

AJR Am J Roentgenol. 1994 Jan;162(1):155-9. doi: 10.2214/ajr.162.1.8273655.


Objective: With the increased survival of patients with severe immunosuppression, it has become more important to recognize the various forms of cerebral and craniofacial aspergillosis. Currently, only small series of patients with this infection have been described; the radiographic diagnosis of cerebral and craniofacial aspergillosis has varied and has been relatively nonspecific. The purpose of our study was to identify neuroimaging patterns in patients with cerebral and craniofacial aspergillosis. Recognition of radiographic patterns of aspergillosis may facilitate earlier radiologic diagnosis and prompt therapy.

Materials and methods: The imaging and clinical data of eight immunosuppressed patients with cerebral aspergillosis and one patient each with aspergillosis of the orbit, paranasal sinus, and calvaria were evaluated retrospectively. All patients were at risk of developing infection by virtue of poorly controlled diabetes or other types of congenital or acquired immunosuppression (e.g., steroids, chemotherapy). Patients were selected for study if the diagnosis of aspergillosis was established by means of biopsy or autopsy and CT scanning or MR imaging was available for review. CT scans and MR images were compared by two experienced neuroradiologists, who were aware of the diagnosis of aspergillosis, to see if common radiographic patterns could be identified that could be used as predictors of this type of infection.

Results: Five patients with cerebral aspergillosis had multiple ring-enhancing lesions consistent with abscesses. Characteristic findings were multiple lesions, an irregular ring of contrast enhancement, and hypointensity of the ring on T2-weighted MR images. Three patients had cortical and subcortical hypodensities on CT scanning or hyperintensities on MR imaging consistent with cerebral cortical and subcortical infarction. Two of these three had superimposed hematoma formation. Three patients had craniofacial aspergillosis. One patient each had enhancing mucosal thickening of the paranasal sinus with secondary intracranial dural enhancement, abnormal enhancement of the optic nerve and sheath with infiltrating enhancing soft tissue within the intraorbital fat, and an enhancing diploetic lesion of the calvaria with underlying dural enhancement.

Conclusion: Three different neuroimaging patterns of cerebral aspergillosis were identified in immunosuppressed patients. The first pattern was multiple areas of hypodensity on CT scans or hyperintensity on T2-weighted MR images involving the cortex and/or subcortical white matter consistent with multiple areas of embolic infarction. This pattern could be seen with or without superimposed hemorrhage, identified as hyperdensity on CT scans or as hyperintensity on T1-weighted MR images. The second pattern was multiple intracerebral ring-enhancing lesions consistent with abscesses. The ring was irregular and of low signal on T2-weighted MR images. The third pattern was dural enhancement associated with enhancing lesions in the adjacent paranasal sinus structure or calvaria or dural enhancement of the optic sheath with associated optic nerve and intraorbital fat enhancement. Recognition of these three patterns of aspergillosis in immunosuppressed patients may lead to more effective diagnosis and treatment planning.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aspergillosis / diagnosis*
  • Aspergillosis / diagnostic imaging
  • Aspergillosis / immunology
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Brain Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunocompromised Host*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Paranasal Sinus Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Paranasal Sinus Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Paranasal Sinuses / diagnostic imaging
  • Paranasal Sinuses / pathology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*