The Role of Leukapheresis in the Current Management of Hyperleukocytosis in Newly Diagnosed Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

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Hyperleukocytosis in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) has been associated with early morbidity and mortality. The use of leukapheresis in these children treated with contemporary therapy remains controversial.


We analyzed clinical data from patients enrolled onto frontline protocols for ALL (Total Therapy XV and XVI) between 2003 and 2014. We documented adverse events within the first 14 days in patients with a white blood cell (WBC) count ≥200 × 109/l and reviewed their management.


Fifty-three (7.8%) of 678 consecutive pediatric patients with newly diagnosed ALL presented with hyperleukocytosis (median WBC count 393 × 109/l; range 200–1,014). Two deaths in patients without initial hyperleukocytosis occurred within the first 2 weeks from diagnosis secondary to bacterial sepsis. A total of 21 (40%) patients with ALL and hyperleukocytosis developed grade 3 or 4 adverse events regardless of the use of leukapheresis (P > 0.99 and P = 0.19). Sixteen of 53 (30%) patients with ALL received low-dose chemotherapy for leukocytoreduction initially. One-third of patients received urate oxidase, and none of the patients with hyperleukocytosis required hemodialysis.


The early morbidity and mortality commonly associated with hyperleukocytosis in children with newly diagnosed ALL can be avoided with contemporary supportive care and conservative management possibly obviating the need for costly and potentially dangerous leukapheresis.

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