1 Scopus citations


Background: Involvement of the central nervous system (CNS) by acute leukemias (ALs) has important implications for risk stratification and disease outcome. The clinical laboratory plays an essential role in assessment of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) specimens from patients with ALs at initial diagnosis, at the end of treatment, and when CNS involvement is clinically suspected. The two challenges for the laboratory are 1) to accurately provide a cell count of the CSF and 2) to successfully distinguish blasts from other cell types. These tasks are classically performed using manual techniques, which suffer from suboptimal turnaround time, imprecision, and inconsistent inter-operator performance. Technological innovations in flow cytometry and hematology analyzer technology have provided useful complements and/or alternatives to conventional manual techniques. Aims: We performed a PRISMA-compliant systematic review to address the medical literature regarding the development and current state of the art of CSF blast identification using flow cytometry and laboratory hematology technologies. Materials and Methods: We searched the peer reviewed medical literature using MEDLINE (PubMed interface), Web of Science, and Embase using the keywords “CSF or cerebrospinal” AND “blasts(s)”. Results: 108 articles were suitable for inclusion in our systematic review. These articles covered 1) clinical rationale for CSF blast identification; 2) morphology-based CSF blast identification; 3) the role of flow cytometry; 4) use of hematology analyzers for CSF blast identification; and 5) quality issues. 9/L, which is much lower than the original machine count and platelet transfusion was warranted. Discussion: 1) Clinical laboratory testing plays a central role in risk stratification and clinical management of patients with acute leukemias, most clearly in pediatric ALs; 2) studies focused on other patient populations, including adults and patients with AML are less prevalent in the literature; 3) improvements in instrumentation may provide better performance for the classification of CSF specimens. Conclusion: Current challenges include: 1) more precisely characterizing the natural history of AL involvement of the CNS, 2) improvements in automated cell count technology of low cellularity specimens, 3) defining the role of flow MRD testing of CSF specimens and 4) improved recognition of specimen quality by clinicians and laboratory personnel.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-53
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Laboratory Hematology
Issue numberS1
StatePublished - Sep 2022


  • acute
  • cerebrospinal fluid
  • flow cytometry
  • haematology analyser
  • leukaemia


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