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Mr. L is a 35-year-old man who is HIV-positive. His chief complaints are cough and fever lasting for 4 days.

image What is the differential diagnosis of cough and fever in HIV-positive patients? How would you frame the differential?


The most common pneumonias in HIV-infected patients are bacterial pneumonia, PJP, and pulmonary TB. Taken together, they account for 91% of pulmonary infections in HIV-positive patients. Three pivotal features aid in the diagnosis of these common pneumonias in HIV-infected persons. First, the CD4TL count gauges the level of immunocompromise. Virulent infections, such as pulmonary TB or bacterial pneumonia, may occur in patients with any CD4TL count. On the other hand, less virulent infections, such as PJP, are seen almost exclusively in patients with CD4TL < 200 cells/mcL.

The second pivotal feature is that certain diseases present acutely (bacterial pneumonia), but other diseases present subacutely or chronically (pulmonary TB or PJP).

The final pivotal feature that aids in the diagnosis of these complaints is the pattern on chest radiograph. Lobar infiltrates suggest bacterial pneumonia, whereas diffuse or interstitial infiltrates are seen in PJP and TB. Patterns that suggest pulmonary TB include apical or cavitary infiltrates (if CD4TL > 200 cells/mcL), hilar lymphadenopathy, or nodular infiltrates. The chest radiographic pattern in pulmonary TB varies depending on the patient’s degree of immunosuppression. Table 5-4 summarizes the typical CD4TL count, acuity, and chest radiographic pattern and approach to pulmonary infection in HIV-positive patients.

Table 5-4.Summary of findings in pulmonary infection in HIV-positive patients.

Tumors may also cause pulmonary complaints. Not surprisingly, aggressive neoplasms, ...

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