Author(s): Mamelak AN, Obana WG, Flaherty JF, Rosenblum ML
Abstract Share this page
Abstract The successful management of nocardial brain abscess remains problematic. The authors report 11 cases of nocardial brain abscess treated between 1971 and 1993 and review 120 cases reported since 1950. The clinical findings included focal deficits in 55 patients (42\%), nonfocal findings in 36 (27\%), and seizures in 39 (30\%). Extraneural nocardiae were present in 66\% of the cases; pulmonary (38\%) and cutaneous/subcutaneous (20\%) locations were the most frequent. The abscesses were single in 54\% of the patients, multiple in 38\%, and of unknown number in 8\%. Forty-four of 131 patients (34\%) were immunocompromised; since 1975, 18 of 40 immunocompromised patients (45\%) were transplant recipients and six (15\%) had human immunodeficiency virus. The mortality rate was 24\% after initial craniotomy and excision (11/45), 50\% after aspiration/drainage (17/34), and 30\% after nonoperative therapy (7/23); 29 cases (22\%) were diagnosed at autopsy. The mortality rate was 33\% in patients with single abscesses and 66\% in those with multiple abscesses (P < 0.0003). There was no difference in the mortality rates of immunocompromised and nonimmunocompromised patients treated before computed tomography (CT) was available; since the advent of CT, however, the mortality rate has been significantly higher in immunocompromised patients (55\% vs. 20\%, P < 0.05). Although the mortality rate for nocardial brain abscesses has dropped almost 50\% since the advent of CT, it has remained virtually unchanged in immunocompromised patients and is three times higher than that of other bacterial brain abscesses (30\% vs. 10\%). The authors recommend image-directed stereotactic aspiration for diagnosis; however, craniotomy and total excision are necessary in most cases, because nocardial abscesses are usually multiloculated. Patients with minimal neurological deficits or small abscesses may be treated initially with antibiotics alone. Sulfonamides, alone or in combination with trimethoprim, are most effective and should be continued for at least 1 year. Minocycline, imipenem, or aminoglycoside in combination with a third-generation cephalosporin may be used with reasonably good success as second-line agents in cases of allergy or nonresponsiveness to sulfa agents.
This article was published in Neurosurgery
and referenced in Journal of Neuroinfectious Diseases