Utility of peripheral blood immunophenotyping by flow cytometry in the diagnosis of pediatric acute leukemia

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Abstract

Background

Childhood acute leukemia is traditionally diagnosed from a bone marrow aspirate (BMA). New-onset acute leukemia patients do not always have visible circulating blasts in the peripheral blood (PB) at diagnosis. While the role of bone marrow flow cytometry for the diagnosis of acute leukemia is well established, the utility of PB flow cytometry (PBFC) is unknown. We performed a single-institution retrospective analysis to compare PBFC versus BMA in establishing or excluding a diagnosis of childhood acute leukemia.

Procedure

We retrospectively identified 485 PBFC samples with concurrent BMA from 2008 to 2013. Results of four-color flow cytometry for immunophenotypic characterization of leukemic versus nonclonal disease were characterized. Sensitivity and specificity were calculated among patients without a known diagnosis or prior therapy.

Results

Among 485 samples eligible for analysis, 120 had negative PBFC and BMA, 359 had positive PBFC and BMA, 3 had negative PBFC and positive BMA, and 3 had positive PBFC and negative BMA. There were small but significant differences in sensitivity (100 vs. 93.8%; P = 0.002) and positive predictive value (100 vs. 93.8%; P = 0.002) favoring BMA over PBFC among those demonstrating absence of circulating morphologic blasts.

Conclusion

PBFC has high sensitivity and specificity for the diagnosis of childhood acute leukemia. The predictive value of PBFC remains high for patients without visible circulating blasts and may enhance the diagnostic process for determining the indications for marrow testing.

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