Introduction Section 1 Section 2 Section 3 Conclusion and References


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The leukemias are a heterogeneous group of hematologic malignancies resulting from a proliferation of hematopoietic cells of various subtypes. There are over twenty-five subtypes of leukemia classified according to the stem cell line involved. The leukemias are also classified as either acute or chronic. Collectively, the leukemias account for 2.7% of new cancer diagnoses in the United States and 3.7% of cancer deaths.

The purpose of this exhibit is to review the complications of systemic leukemia which may affect the central nervous system (CNS). Such complications affect up to 25-50% of these patients, and are frequently the cause of morbidity and mortality.


Broadly, the CNS complications of leukemia can be divided into those which are a direct or indirect result of the leukemic process, and those which can be attributed to antileukemic therapy.

Imaging plays an important role in the evaluation of leukemic patients with suspected CNS complications. When imaging findings are nonspecific, correlation with clinical and laboratory studies are often necessary to arrive at the correct diagnosis. The following sections list the known CNS complications of leukemia. Some lesions are probably caused by several different mechanisms, but the classification serves as a useful way of thinking about these complications. Following the classification, is an in depth discussion of the different CNS complications of leukemia, along with relevant clinical features and case studies.

In the leukemic patient with neurological symptoms, the differential diagnosis includes many possible considerations, such as direct CNS spread as well as cerebrovascular, infectious, or treatment related complications. More than one lesion may coexist. Radiology can play a crucial role in the evaluation of these patients, and in most cases, the correct diagnosis may be made.

Few, if any of the radiological findings in this exhibit are unique to leukemia. However, a familiarity with the spectrum of CNS complications and their imaging appearance is necessary if one is to arrive at the appropriate diagnosis in the leukemic patient who presents with neurological signs and symptoms.


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