Central Nervous System Aspergillosis: A Series of 14 Cases From a General Hospital and Review of 123 Cases From the Literature


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Abstract

Central nervous system (CNS) aspergillosis is a highly fatal infection. We review the clinical presentation, diagnosis, and outcome of this infection and present a case series of 14 consecutive patients with CNS aspergillosis admitted to Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) from 2000 to 2011. We also review 123 cases reported in the literature during that time. We included only proven CNS aspergillosis cases conforming to the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer/Mycoses Study Group (EORTC/MSG) definitions of invasive fungal infections. In the MGH case series, neutropenia, hematologic malignancies, autoimmune diseases requiring steroid treatment, and solid organ transplantation were the predominant comorbid conditions. Notably, all MGH patients were immunosuppressed, and more than half (n = 8) had a history of previous brain injury, unrelated to their index hospitalization. For most MGH patients (11 of 14), the lung was the primary focus of aspergillosis, while 2 had paranasal sinus involvement, and 1 had primary Aspergillus discitis. Among reported cases, paranasal sinuses (27.6%) and the lung (26.8%) were the primary foci of infection, whereas 22% of those cases had no obvious primary organ involvement. Although a selection bias should be considered, especially among published cases, our findings suggest that patients who underwent neurosurgery had improved survival, with MGH and literature patients having 25% and 28.6% mortality, respectively, compared to 100% and 60.4%, respectively, among patients who received only medical treatment. Although this was not the case among MGH patients, CNS aspergillosis can affect patients without significant immune suppression, as indicated by the high number of reported immunocompetent cases. In conclusion, mortality among CNS aspergillosis patients remains high, and the infection may be more common among patients with previous brain pathology. When indicated, neurosurgical procedures may improve prognosis.

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