, Volume 38, Issue 5, pp 994-1004

Acute HIV-related gastrointestinal disorders and complications in the antiretroviral era: spectrum of cross-sectional imaging findings

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Abstract

Emergency physicians and radiologists are increasingly confronted with aging HIV-positive or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) patients with acute abdominal symptoms, who often require immediate medical or surgical treatment. A wide spectrum of infectious and neoplastic HIV-related gastrointestinal diseases may be encountered, along with atypical presentations of common disorders. Since symptoms and physical findings are commonly nonspecific or masked by concurrent illnesses, medications, and weak immune response, prompt cross-sectional diagnostic imaging studies are needed to triage patients and choose treatment. Multidetector CT currently represents the mainstay modality to promptly investigate intra-abdominal opportunistic disorders in HIV/AIDS patients, and MRI is increasingly used to assess abnormalities involving the rectum. The spectrum of cross-sectional imaging appearances of HIV-related acute gastrointestinal disorders and complications observed in the antiretroviral era is reviewed, including acute intestinal infections, causes of right lower quadrant pain, bleeding, bowel obstruction, and perforation. State-of-the-art technology, knowledge of pertinent clinical information, and familiarity with the spectrum of opportunistic diseases are necessary to improve diagnostic confidence in the detection and characterization of gastrointestinal abnormalities on urgent cross-sectional abdominal studies performed in HIV-infected patients.