Aspergillus pericarditis: clinical and pathologic features in the immunocompromised patient
Walsh TJ, Bulkley BH
Date: 3 July 2009
There has been a proliferation of infectious complications due to Aspergillus in patients receiving chemotherapy for cancer and transplantation; however, aspergillus pericarditis has been rarely described. Reported here are the clinical and pathologic findings of Aspergillus pericarditis in six immunocomprised patients who came to autopsy in the past 11 years. Five had leukemia, one had received a renal transplant. All had pulmonary aspergillosis. Two had clinically overt pericarditis leading to cardiac tamponade and death. Pulmonary aspergillosis preceded development of pericardial signs. Chest radiographs, serial electrocardiograms, and echocardiograms showed abnormality but were nonspecific. Pericardiocentesis was performed in one patient but proved nondiagnostic and yielded only transient hemodynamic improvement; postmortem Gram stain of the spun sediment of that pericardial fluid revealed branched hyphae. Although five patients received Amphotericin B, whether it entered the pericardial space is uncertain. Postmortem examination revealed extensive pericardial involvement by Aspergillus associated with effusions as large as 1000 ml Aspergillus penetrated the pericardium by rupture of myocardial abscesses and invasion from contiguous pulmonary foci into the pericardial space. A clinical diagnosis of Aspergillus pericarditis was never established, and at least two died of their pericardial disease. Aspergillus pericarditis is a lethal cardiac infection, which is likely to increase in frequency, and should be considered in the hemodynamically unstable immunocompromised patient, especially when signs of pericarditis or pulmonary aspergillosis are present.
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