Focal Neurological Disease in Patients with Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome

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Focal neurological disease in patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome may be caused by various opportunistic pathogens and malignancies, including Toxoplasma gondii, progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML), cytomegalovirus (CMV), and Epstein-Barr virus-related primary central nervous system (CNS) lymphoma. Diagnosis may be difficult, because the findings of lumbar puncture, computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging are relatively nonspecific. Newer techniques have led to improved diagnostic accuracy of these conditions. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) of cerebrospinal fluid specimens is useful for diagnosis of PML, CNS lymphoma, and CMV encephalitis. Recent studies have indicated the diagnostic utility of new neuroimaging techniques, such as single-photon emission CT and positron emission tomography. The combination of PCR and neuroimaging techniques may obviate the need for brain biopsy in selected cases. However, stereotactic brain biopsy, which is associated with relatively low morbidity rates, remains the reference standard for diagnosis. Highly active antiretroviral therapy has improved the prognosis of several focal CNS processes, most notably toxoplasmosis, PML, and CMV encephalitis.

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