The cause of cerebral atrophy in patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is obscure because human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV‐1)‐related histopathological changes hardly correlate with cerebral atrophy. In this study, brain ventricular expansion was compared to the frontal lobe density of mononuclear and astroglial cells at autopsy. Twenty‐eight male patients with AIDS displaying varying degrees of atrophy were compared to 17 age‐matched male control subjects without AIDS or atrophy. An index of ventricular expansion was measured in uniformly sliced, formalin‐fixed brain specimens, and immunochemically marked cells in coronal sections of the left superior frontal gyrus (Brodmann area 8) were quantified by field counting and planimetry. In the cortex, diffuse ferritin‐stained microglia and glial fibrillary acidic protein‐positive astrocytes were about twice as numerous in the patients with AIDS. Sixty‐five percent (18/28) of the patients with AIDS had a microglial cell density greater than 2 standard deviations above the control mean. Microglial cell density was correlated positively with the severity of ventricular expansion (r = 0.71, p <0.0001), while hypertrophied astroglial cells were very weakly related. In white matter, Ham‐56–‐positive macrophages and glial fibrillary acidic protein‐positive astrocytes were not meaningfully correlated with the index of ventricular expansion. Brain ventricular expansion and diffuse cortical microgliosis are highly prevalent anomalies in patients with AIDS, and their interrelationship may be more important than previously recognized.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology