While uncommon, CNS-IRIS developing after the initiation of HAART in the setting of HIV-related severe immunosuppression is characterized by an intense inflammatory reaction to dead or latent organisms or to self-antigens due to a heightened but dysregulated immune response. While this reaction can range from mild to fulminating, encompassing a very wide clinical spectrum, it is important to recognize because changes in medical management may be necessary to prevent neurologic decline and even death. Once contained, however, this inflammatory response can be associated with improved patient outcome as immune function is restored. Among the infectious organisms that are most commonly associated with CNS-IRIS are the JC virus and Cryptococcus organisms, which will be the subject of this review. CD8 cell infiltration in the leptomeninges, perivascular spaces, blood vessels, and even parenchyma seems to be the pathologic hallmark of CNS-IRIS. While recognition of CNS-IRIS may be difficult, the onset of new or progressive clinical symptoms, despite medical therapy and despite improved laboratory data, and the appearance on neuroimaging studies of contrast enhancement, interstitial edema, mass effect, and restricted diffusion in infections not typically characterized by these findings in the untreated HIV-infected patient should raise the strong suspicion for CNS-IRIS. While CNS-IRIS is a diagnosis of exclusion, the neuroradiologist can play a critical role in alerting the clinician to the possibility of this syndrome.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
- Clinical Neurology