Thoracic surgical spectrum of HIV infection

Amir Abolhoda, Steven M. Keller

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The thoracic surgeon is often called on to diagnose or treat a variety of disorders associated with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. Surgical mediastinal exploration through cervical and anterior approaches is a safe and valuable modality in appropriately selected patients with unexplained mediastinal lymphadenopathy. Open lung biopsy is used in a small subset of HIV-infected patients with undiagnosed diffuse or multifocal pulmonary disease, with an anticipated diagnostic yield of more than 70%. The biopsy can be performed either thoracoscopically or via thoracotomy, based on the expertise and discretion of the surgeon. Open lung biopsy should be used very selectively and in patients with bronchoscopically confirmed diagnoses who are failing optimal medical therapy, because the impact on outcome is minuscule and because open lung biopsy is best avoided altogether in patients with established respiratory failure. Patients with acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) have an increased incidence of pneumothorax, often associated with Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia. Depending on the clinical scenario, tube thoracostomy, pleurodesis, or pleurectomy may be used. Thoracic empyema in AIDS patients requires urgent intercostal drainage and close clinical surveillance to discern the need for decortication or rib resection and open drainage. A surgical approach to pyogenic lung abscess or invasive aspergillosis is occasionally useful. Although it is controversial whether the incidence of lung cancer is increased in patients with HIV infection, HIV-positive patients with early stage nonsmall-cell lung cancer who are otherwise surgical candidates should undergo resection, especially in the era of highly active antiretroviral therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)359-365
Number of pages7
JournalSeminars in Respiratory Infections
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Microbiology (medical)


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