Despite extensive discussion in recent years, brain biopsy in patients positive for human immunodeficiency virus who manifest cerebral mass lesions remains an ill-defined step in management.
Prebiopsy data of 26 human immunodeficiency virus–positive patients with cerebral mass lesions who underwent computed tomography–guided stereotactic brain biopsy (SBB) were reviewed by a specialist in infectious diseases and by a neuroradiologist to establish a clinical diagnosis and a treatment plan for each patient. The postbiopsy diagnosis was compared with the prebiopsy diagnosis. Long-term patient outcome after SBB was recorded by means of a clinical performance scale to estimate its impact on life expectancy and clinical performance.
The SBB was diagnostic in 25 patients (96%). Potentially treatable disease was diagnosed in 21 patients (81%), and specific therapy was initiated in 17 patients (65%); 10 patients (39%) were able to complete therapy. The SBB corroborated the clinical diagnosis in 13 (52%) of 25 patients. The group with identical clinical and biopsy-proved diagnoses showed significantly better response to therapy (P=.02), clinical performance (P=.04), and survival after biopsy (P=.01), as compared with the group with different clinical and biopsy-proved diagnosis, although no significant difference was found for the degree of immunosuppression. Only completion of the treatment plan increased life expectancy significantly (P=.008).
These data show that in human immunodeficiency virus–positive patients with brain mass lesions, SBB has a high diagnostic yield. A subgroup of patients will benefit from specific therapy guided by the SBB result. The procedure should, however, be strictly limited to patients able to tolerate specific therapy.