BACKGROUND: Kaposi's sarcoma in HIV antibody positive patients may affect the lungs. This study describes the presentation, chest radiographic appearances, and pulmonary function test abnormalities in patients with AIDS who had tracheobronchial Kaposi's sarcoma. METHODS AND RESULTS: Twenty nine (8%) of 361 consecutive HIV antibody positive patients undergoing bronchoscopy for respiratory symptoms had tracheobronchial Kaposi's sarcoma. Eight patients had intercurrent infections and one had previously received chemotherapy for cutaneous Kaposi's sarcoma; these patients were excluded. Seven of the remaining 20 patients had localised Kaposi's sarcoma (lesions confined to the trachea or the subsegments of one lobe) and 13 had widespread Kaposi's sarcoma (affecting the trachea and one lobe or the subsegments of more than one lobe); 19 patients also had cutaneous and palatal Kaposi's sarcoma. Seven patients, four with widespread disease, had a normal radiograph. All patients had reduced transfer factor (TLCO) and transfer coefficient (KCO) but only those with widespread disease had reductions in forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1), forced vital capacity (FVC), and peak expiratory flow (PEF). Follow up pulmonary function testing in seven patients (median three months later) showed further reductions in TLCO. All four patients who received no treatment had progressive radiographic abnormalities; bronchoscopy in two patients showed progressive tracheobronchial disease, and two patients had further reductions in FEV1 and FVC. In three patients treated with chemotherapy palliation of symptoms was achieved but two had further reductions in FEV1 and FVC and the radiograph deteriorated. Bronchoscopy showed regression of disease in only one patient. CONCLUSION: Pulmonary Kaposi's sarcoma produces abnormalities of TLCO even in patients with localised disease; airflow obstruction may occur in patients with widespread disease. Bronchoscopic reassessment of the extent of disease may not accurately reflect response to chemotherapy.
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