Kaposi sarcoma

Dr Henry Knipe and Dr Yuranga Weerakkody et al.

Kaposi sarcoma is a low-to-intermediate grade mesenchymal tumor that involves the lymphovascular system. The tumor can involve the pulmonary, gastrointestinal, cutaneous and musculoskeletal systems.

There are four recognized variants 1:

  • classic (chronic): multiple distal lower extremity predominant purple skin plaques and rarely involve visceral organs
  • endemic (lymphadenopathic): common in equatorial Africa
  • iatrogenic (organ transplant-related)
  • AIDS related (epidemic): usually requires the CD4 count to drop < 200 cells/mm3; may develop in up to 35% of patients with AIDS 2 and when developed it is considered an AIDS-defining illness

The latter two variants are much more common.

An etiological association with human herpes virus type 8 (HHV8) has been postulated. The AIDS-related and post-transplant variant are associated with immunosuppressive states.

Histologically can comprise of sheets of plump spindle-shaped cells surrounding and lining slit-like vascular spaces.

  • lymphoproliferative disorders (particularly with the classic form)

There is a wide spectrum of imaging findings depending on which organ is involved. However, most features are nonspecific 1,2,4 but may assist in diagnosis if relevant clinical risk factors (e.g. background AIDS history) are evident. In 30% of cases, there is no concurrent cutaneous involvement 1.

The following features may be seen on chest radiographs:

  • parenchymal nodular or reticular opacities with a predilection towards peri-hilar mid to lower zones; has two major patterns
    • linear interstitial nodules
    • fluffy ill-defined nodules
  • pleural effusion(s)
  • mediastinal and/or hilar lymphadenopathy

On HRCT of the chest:

On liver CT:

  • ill-defined multifocal peripheral portal nodules with variable attenuation (commonest hepatic neoplasm in AIDS patients) 1,4

Scintigraphy may be useful if concurrent opportunistic infection or lymphoma is suspected:

  • Th201: usually positive in both lymphoma and Kaposi sarcoma
  • Ga67: usually negative in Kaposi sarcoma but positive in lymphoma and infection

This condition was first described by Moritz Kaposi (1837-1902 an , Austro-Hungarian dermatologist in 1872.

For thoracic involvement consider

Article information

rID: 7539
System: Chest
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Kaposi Sarcoma
  • Kaposi sarcoma (KS)
  • Kaposi Sarcomas

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Cases and figures

  • Figure 1: non-AIDS associated KS skin lesions
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  • Case 1: Kaposi's sarcoma of the lung
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  • Case 2: pulmonary Kaposi sarcoma
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