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Adrenal pathology in the acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

Adrenal pathology was examined in 41 autopsied patients with the acquired immune deficiency syndrome. This represents the largest series and the first study with quantitation of adrenal cortical necrosis. In 32 cases clinical data were analyzed for features of adrenal insufficiency. Common clinical findings included vomiting, diarrhea, fever, hypotension, and hyponatremia. None of the 32 patients showed characteristic skin hyperpigmentation. Two patients were suspected premortem to have adrenal insufficiency. In one of these patients, adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH) stimulation resulted in an adequate rise in plasma cortisol values. In the other patient, the baseline plasma cortisol value was elevated and failed to rise significantly after ACTH stimulation. Pathologic findings included widespread lipid depletion, infection by cryptococcus, and acid-fast organisms consistent with Mycobacterium avium-intracellulare, involvement by Kaposi's sarcoma, and necrotizing adrenalitis due to cytomegalovirus (CMV). A point-counting method was used to quantitate adrenal cortical and medullary necrosis. Necrosis due to CMV was greater in the medulla than the cortex. The maximum amount of adrenal cortical necrosis in any case was 70%. The degree of cortical necrosis was less than that usually associated with adrenal insufficiency.

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