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July 28, 1997

Bone Marrow Biopsy in the Diagnosis of Fever of Unknown Origin in Patients With Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome

Author Affiliations

From the Division of Infectious Diseases and Hematology (Department of Medicine) and Departments of Clinical Microbiology and Pathology, Fundación Jimenez Díaz, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Madrid, Spain.

Arch Intern Med. 1997;157(14):1577-1580. doi:10.1001/archinte.1997.00440350085008

Background:  Fever is commonly observed in patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) disease and frequently eludes diagnosis. The role of bone marrow biopsy in the diagnosis of fever of unknown origin in patients infected with HIV remains controversial.

Patients and Methods:  One hundred twenty-three consecutive patients with 137 episodes of fever lasting 10 or more days without diagnosis after 1 week of hospitalization were evaluated by bone marrow biopsy.

Results:  Overall, a specific diagnosis was achieved in 52 episodes by means of culture and histopathological examination (diagnostic yield, 37.9%). Three types of disease were found: mycobacterial infections (n=36, 69% of documented episodes), including 18 patients with disseminated tuberculosis and 14 with Mycobacterium avium-intracellulare complex infections; non-Hodgkin lymphomas (n=12, 23%); and visceral leishmaniasis (n=4, 8%). Although bone marrow cultures were more sensitive than microscopic examination with special stains for the diagnosis of mycobacterial infections, the pathological examination of bone marrow led to a more rapid diagnosis of disease. In addition, the histopathological examination of bone marrow alone led to the diagnosis of a specific condition in 43 episodes (31.3% of all episodes).

Conclusions:  Bone marrow biopsy is a useful procedure for the diagnosis of fever in patients with advanced HIV disease, particularly in areas where tuberculosis and leishmaniasis are prevalent. Involvement of the marrow may be the first indication of the existence of extranodal non-Hodgkin lymphoma. For Mycobacterium avium-intracellulare complex infection, blood cultures were more sensitive than bone marrow biopsy.Arch Intern Med. 1997;157:1577-1580