University College London Medical School, Middlesex Hospital, UK.
Infection with the human immunodeficiency virus-type 1 (HIV-1) may produce a variety of central nervous system (CNS) symptoms and signs. CNS involvement in patients with the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) includes AIDS dementia complex or HIV-1 associated cognitive/motor complex (widely known as HIV encephalopathy), progressive multifocal leucoencephalopathy (PML), opportunistic infections such as Toxoplasma gondii, TB, Cryptococcus and infiltration by non-Hodgkin's B cell lymphoma. High resolution structural imaging investigations, either X-ray Computed Tomography (CT scan) or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) have contributed to the understanding and definition of cerebral damage caused by HIV encephalopathy. Atrophy and mainly high signal scattered white matter abnormalities are commonly seen with MRI. PML produces focal white matter high signal abnormalities due to multiple foci of demyelination. However, using structural imaging techniques there are no reliable parameters to distinguish focal lesions due to opportunistic infection (Toxoplasma gondii abscess) from neoplasm (lymphoma infiltration). In this manuscript we review the use of radionuclide brain imaging techniques in the investigation of HIV infected patients. Brain perfusion single photon emission tomography (SPET), neuroreceptor and positron emission tomography (PET) studies are reviewed. Greater emphasis is put on the potential of some radiopharmaceuticals, considered to be brain tumor markers, to distinguish intracerebral lymphoma infiltration from Toxoplasma infection. SPET with 201Tl using quantification (tumour to nontumour radioactivity ratios) appears a very promising technique to identify intracerebral lymphoma.
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