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March 11, 1996

Stereotactic Brain Biopsy in Human Immunodeficiency Virus—Infected Patients

Author Affiliations

From the Institute of Immunology and Infectious Diseases (Drs Luzzati, Malena, Merighi, and Concia) and the Sections of Neurology (Drs Ferrari, Morbin, and Rizzuto) and Neurosurgery (Drs Nicolato and Gerosa), Department of Neurological and Visual Sciences, University of Verona (Italy); and Section of Neuroradiology, Hospital of Verona (Dr Piovan).

Arch Intern Med. 1996;156(5):565-568. doi:10.1001/archinte.1996.00440050123013

Objective:  To evaluate prospectively the diagnostic efficacy and safety of stereotactic brain biopsy and its impact on treatment, outcome, and survival in human immunodeficiency virus—infected patients with focal brain lesions.

Methods:  Computed tomography—guided stereotactic brain biopsy was performed in 26 patients, of whom 17 failed to respond to a 2- to 3-week anti-Toxoplasma regimen. Exclusion criteria for biopsy were overt acquired immunodeficiency syndrome for 2 years or longer, Karnofsky score less than 50, and severe coagulopathies.

Results:  A definitive diagnosis was obtained in 24 patients (92%), of whom 12 (46%) had primary brain lymphoma, six (23%) had progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, and four (15%) had Toxoplasma encephalitis. Two thirds of contrast-enhancing lesions on computed tomography were lymphoma and three fourths of contrast-negative lesions were leukoencephalopathy. Three patients had biopsy-related cerebral hemorrhages (morbidity, 11.5%). Median follow-up and survival for the entire group were 24 weeks (range, 6 to 135 weeks). Twenty patients (77%) received specific therapy and 13 (50%) responded to treatment. Of 11 patients with lymphoma undergoing irradiation treatment (whole-brain radiotherapy in seven and γ-knife treatment in four), nine (82%) had clinical and radiologic response, with a median survival of 34 weeks (range, 13 to 57 weeks).

Conclusions:  Stereotactic brain biopsy has high diagnostic efficacy and clinical benefit in carefully selected human immunodeficiency virus—infected patients. The procedure should be performed essentially in patients with contrast-enhancing lesions on computed tomography who have a high frequency of treatable cerebral diseases.(Arch Intern Med. 1996;156:565-568)