Clinicopathologic correlations of HIV-1-associated vacuolar myelopathy: An autopsy-based case-control study

Gerald J.Dal Pan, Jonathan D. Glass, Justin C. McArthur

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To determine the clinical correlates of HIV-l-associated vacuolar myelopathy (VM), we designed a case-control study based on 215 AIDS autopsies in which we examined the spinal cord. We defined a case as an individual dying with AIDS and with VM present at autopsy; we defined a control as an individual dying with AIDS without VM. VM was found in 100 of 215 (46.5%) autopsies, with no apparent temporal trends. A higher number of AIDS- defining illnesses was strongly associated with the likelihood ofVM (trend chi-square = 26.52, p < 0.001). Systemic infection with Mycobacterium avium-intracellulare and Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia were each associated with the pathologic findings of VM in both univariate and multivariate models. In the brain, multinucleated giant cells were detected in more cases than in controls (odds ratio = 3.68, 95% Cl = 1.73 to 7.47, p < 0.001). The clinical features of HIV-1 dementia were not associated with VM; in contrast, predominantly sensory neuropathy was more common in VM cases than in controls (odds ratio = 5.00, 95% Cl = 1.35 to 18.5, p < 0.05). Fifty-six cases with VM had detailed neurologic evaluations, but only 15 (26.8%) had signs and symptoms of myelopathy. The presence of symptomatic myelopathy was related to the pathologic severity: none of 17 cases with grade 1, five of 26 with grade 2, and 10 of 13 with grade 3 had clinical features of myelopathy (trend chi-square = 21.16, p < 0.005). VM is a common neuropathologic finding that is frequently unrecognized during life. The association with the number of systemic illnesses, M avium-intracellulare infection, and P carinii pneumonia suggests that the development of VM is related to the severity of immunosuppression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2159-2164
Number of pages6
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology

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