Immediate causes of death in acquired immunodeficiency syndrome

L. Moskowitz, G. T. Hensley, J. C. Chan, K. Adams

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78 Scopus citations


We evaluated the immediate causes of death in 54 adults who underwent an autopsy and were diagnosed as having died of the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome between April 1980 and October 1983. The study group included 25 Haitians, 19 homosexual men, five intravenous drug abusers, two hemophiliacs (type A), and three with no known risk. Fourteen died of central nervous system diseases: 11 of Toxoplasma encephalitis, one of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, one of viral encephalitis, and one of intracerebral hemorrhage. Thirty died of respiratory failure; 16 of Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, ten of cytomegalovirus pneumonia, one of multiple infections, one of interstitial pneumonia, and two of bacterial pneumonia. Two died of overwhelming generalized infections: one of Mycobacterium avium-intracellulare and one of listeriosis. Six died of disseminated Kaposi's sarcoma, while the remaining two persons died of Toxoplasma myocarditis (one) and one of shock resulting from a percutaneous liver biopsy, respectively. There were differences in the immediate causes of death between Haitians and homosexuals as follows: 63% of homosexual men died of either P carinii pneumonia or Kaposi's sarcoma vs 20% of Haitians. In contrast, 72% of Haitians died of other opportunistic infections as compared with 21% of homosexuals. There has not been an increase in the proportion of cases diagnosed premortem since 1982 and overall, only 32 (58%) were diagnosed premortem; the rest were diagnosed only at autopsy. This study provided evidence that 42% died of currently untreatable diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)735-738
Number of pages4
JournalArchives of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 1 1985

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Medical Laboratory Technology


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