Acute leukaemia

Last updated: Monday, 25, October, 2010
Key InformationAppropriate Tests

FBC, blood film, differential WCC; bone marrow aspiration and trephine biopsy.

See Table 4. Reference intervals for leucocyte differential counts

Cytochemistry, cytogenetics (oncology), blast cell immunophenotyping and molecular genetics on blood andor bone marrow aspirate to classify type.


The WHO classification is based on the FAB classification of acute leukaemia. It incorporates morphologic, immunophenotypic, genetic and clinical features in an attempt to define entities that are biologically homogeneous and that have clinical relevance. The acute leukaemias are classified as myeloid or lymphoid based on the lineage of the blast cells. This is based on morphology of blood and bone marrow aspirate, cytochemistry, electron microscopy and cell immunophenotyping; it guides therapy and indicates prognosis.

Acute myeloid leukemias

AMLs with recurrent cytogenic abnormalities

  • AML with t(8;21)(q22;q22), (AML1/ETO)
  • AML with inv(16)(p13q22) or t(16;16)(p13;q22), (CBFß/MYH11)
  • Acute promyelocytic leukemia (AML with t(15;17)(q22;q12), (PML/RAR alpha)
  • AML with 11q23 (MLL) abnormalities

AML with multilineage dysplasiaAML and myelodysplastic syndrome, therapy related

AML, not otherwise categorised

  • AML, minimally differentiated
  • AML without maturation
  • AML with maturation
  • Acute promyelocytic leukemia lacking RAR alpha rearrangement
  • Acute myelomonocytic leukemia
  • Acute monoblastic and monocytic leukemia
  • Acute erythoid leukemia
  • Acute megakaryoblastic leukemia
  • Acute basophilic leukemia
  • Acute panmyelosis with myelofibrosis
  • Myeloid sarcoma

Acute lymphoblastic leukemias

Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia may be of pre-B cell, B cell, precursor B cell, or T cell origin.

  • Precursor B-lymphoblastic leukemia/lymphomaa
  • Precursor T-lymphoblastic leukemia/lymphomaa
  • Burkitt lymphoma/leukemiab

Acute leukemias of ambiguous lineage

  • Biphenotypic acute leukemia
  • Undifferentiated acute leukemia

aListed in WHO classification under precursor B-cell and T-cell neoplasms.
bListed in WHO classifecation under mature B-cell neoplasms.
Reference: Modified from the WHO Classification of Tumours, Pathology and Genetics: Tumours of Haematopoietic and Lymphoid Tissues.


Bone marrow failure



  • Fever
  • Oral ulcers
  • Bacterial/fungal infection

See Febrile neutropenia.

Infection (increased susceptibility)



  • Bruising
  • Purpura


Especially is acute promyelocytic leukaemia

FBC; thrombin time, fibrin degradation products, APTT, PT, fibrinogen.

Acute promyelocytic leukaemia, especially

Leukostasis (especially in acute myeloblastic leukaemia)

With extreme leucocytosis (blast cells).

Urate nephropathy, especially in
acute promyelocytic leukaemia

See Renal failure - acute.