Receptive and expressive language function of children with symptomatic HIV infection and relationship with disease parameters: a longitudinal 24month followup study

Wolters, Pamela L.1,2,4; Brouwers, Pim1; Civitello, Lucy1,3; Moss, Howard A.1,2


Objectives: To longitudinally assess the receptive and expressive language functioning of children with symptomatic HIV disease and to explore the relationship between immune status, computed tomography (CT) brain scan abnormalities, and language dysfunction over time.

Methods: Children with symptomatic HIV infection were administered an age-appropriate standardized comprehensive language test and general cognitive measure prior to starting antiretroviral therapy (n = 44) and again after 6 months (n = 29) and 24 months (n = 17). CD4 percentage and CT brain scans were also obtained at each evaluation.

Results: Expressive language was significantly more impaired than receptive language at the baseline, 6- and 24-month evaluations. No significant changes over time were found in receptive or expressive language from baseline to after 6 months of antiretroviral therapy, but despite treatment, language scores declined significantly between 6 and 24 months. Overall cognitive function, however, remained stable from baseline to 24 months. Age-adjusted CD4 percentage increased significantly over the initial 6 months, then remained stable. Overall CT brain scan severity ratings did not change significantly over 24 months.

Conclusion: Expressive language was consistently more impaired than receptive language over 24 months, further supporting an earlier finding that expressive language was differentially affected by HIV in children with symptomatic disease. Both receptive and expressive language declined significantly after 24 months despite antiretroviral therapy, although overall cognitive function remained stable. Thus, functioning in some domains may be more vulnerable to the effects of HIV and global measures of cognitive ability may mask such differential changes in specific brain functions.

Author Information

1HIV/AIDS Malignancy Branch, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda

2Medical Illness Counseling Center, Chevy Chase, Maryland

3Children's National Medical Center, Washington, DC, USA.

4Requests for reprints to: Dr Pamela L. Wolters, National Cancer Institute, HIV/AIDS Malignancy Branch, 10 Center Drive, Building 10, 13N240, Bethesda MD 20892-1928, USA.

Sponsorship: Supported in part by Research Contracts NCI-CM-17529-41 and NCI-CM-47002-09 awarded to the Medical Illness Counseling Center, Chevy Chase, Maryland, USA.

Date of receipt: 6 June 1996; revised: 24 March 1997; accepted: 15 April 1997.

© Lippincott-Raven Publishers.