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Am J Hematol. 2001 Jun;67(2):100-6.

Bone marrow aspiration, biopsy, and culture in the evaluation of HIV-infected patients for invasive mycobacteria and histoplasma infections.

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  • 1Division of Hematologic Malignancies, Department of Oncology, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.


Bone marrow (BM) aspiration and biopsy are used commonly in clinical practice to diagnose invasive tissue infections caused by Mycobacterium avium intracellulare (MAC), Mycobacterium tuberculosis (TB), and Histoplasma capsulatum (HC) in patients with human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV) infection. However, the value of these invasive procedures relative to other diagnostic approaches has not been clearly defined. To determine the value of BM culture and BM histology in the diagnosis of opportunistic MAC/TB and HC infections in immunosuppressed patients with HIV, we retrospectively reviewed the records of 56 adult patients with HIV who underwent a single BM aspiration, biopsy, and culture because of unexplained fever and/or other clinical features suggestive of MAC/TB or HC infection. Thirty-two patients (57%) were ultimately diagnosed with MAC/TB or HC infection by positive cultures of BM, blood, sputum, or bronchoalveolar lavage fluid or by the histologic detection of organisms in biopsies of BM or other tissues. The diagnostic sensitivity of BM cultures was equal to that of blood cultures (20/32, or 63%). Granuloma and/or histologically apparent organisms were seen in BM biopsy specimens in 11 of 32 individuals (34%) ultimately diagnosed with MAC/TB or HC infections. Among these 11 cases, both granuloma and acid-fast staining organisms were found in the BM biopsy specimens of 2 individuals for whom both BM and blood cultures were negative. Certain clinical symptoms and signs at the time of BM examination were found by logistic regression analysis to be significantly associated with a subsequent diagnosis of MAC/TB or HC infections; these included high fever, long duration of febrile days prior to BM examination, and elevated direct bilirubin. In conclusion, while the diagnostic sensitivity of BM cultures was found to be no greater than that of blood cultures in detecting MAC/TB or HC infections in immunosuppressed HIV+ patients, histopathologic examination of BM specimens resulted in the relatively rapid identification of nearly one third of infected patients who underwent BM examination, and also identified infections in some patients who were culture negative. These findings support the continued use of BM aspiration, biopsy, and culture for the diagnosis of opportunistic MAC/TB or HC infections in immunosuppressed HIV+ patients, particularly when selected clinical features are present.

Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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