Contrast-enhancing progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy: radiological and pathological correlations: case report

Neurosurgery. 1996 Nov;39(5):1031-4; discussion 1034-5. doi: 10.1097/00006123-199611000-00029.


Objective and importance: Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML), a demyelinating disease caused by the JC papovavirus, is an opportunistic infection afflicting patients with impaired cellular immunity. Although initially described in patients with hematological malignancies, PML has become associated with several other immunocompromised states, particularly human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. There are numerous central nervous system manifestations in patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. A major characteristic that distinguishes PML from other more common lesions, such as toxoplasmosis or non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, is the lack of contrast enhancement. We describe a case of PML that exhibits contrast enhancement, and we conclude that the diagnosis of PML must be considered in patients with HIV who have contrast-enhancing lesions.

Clinical presentation: A 40-year-old woman presented with progressive hemiparesis, blurred vision, and ataxia. Magnetic resonance imaging revealed a contrast-enhancing lesion involving the left middle cerebellar peduncle, causing mild compression of the fourth ventricle.

Intervention: The patient underwent a stereotactic serial biopsy with the presumptive diagnosis of moderate- to high-grade glioma. Histological examination of the biopsy specimen revealed early PML. Subsequently, a test for HIV was obtained and the results were positive.

Conclusion: We have reported another atypical radiographic characteristic of PML associated with HIV. We conclude that PML lesions can enhance after the administration of gadolinium. Therefore, the diagnosis of PML must be entertained in patients whose test results were positive for HIV with contrast-enhancing lesions and that a stereotactic serial biopsy may be necessary to provide a definitive diagnosis.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biopsy
  • Cerebellum / pathology
  • Contrast Media
  • Female
  • Gadolinium
  • HIV Infections / complications
  • Humans
  • Leukoencephalopathy, Progressive Multifocal / complications
  • Leukoencephalopathy, Progressive Multifocal / diagnostic imaging*
  • Leukoencephalopathy, Progressive Multifocal / pathology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Radiography


  • Contrast Media
  • Gadolinium