Routine blood investigations have limited utility in surveillance of aggressive lymphoma in asymptomatic patients in complete remission Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND:Patients with aggressive lymphoma achieving complete remission (CR) after first-line combination chemotherapy undergo regular surveillance to detect relapse. Current international guidelines recommend routine follow-up blood tests in this context, but evidence supporting this practice is limited. METHODS:We conducted a multi-centre retrospective analysis of all patients diagnosed with aggressive lymphoma treated with curative-intent chemotherapy who achieved CR for at least 3 months between 2000 and 2015. An abnormal blood test was defined as any new and unexplained abnormality for full blood examination, lactate dehydrogenase or erythrocyte sedimentation rate. RESULTS:Three hundred and forty-six patients attended a total of 3084 outpatient visits; blood tests were performed at 90% of these appointments. Fifty-six (16%) patients relapsed. Routine laboratory testing detected relapse in only three patients (5% of relapses); in the remaining patients, relapse was suspected clinically (80%) or detected by imaging (15%). The sensitivity of all blood tests was 42% and the positive predictive value was 9%. No significant difference in survival was shown in patients who underwent a routine blood test within 3 months prior to relapse versus those who did not (p = 0.88). CONCLUSIONS:Routine blood tests demonstrate unacceptably poor performance characteristics, have no impact on survival and thus have limited value in the detection of relapse in routine surveillance.


  • Hawkes, Eliza A
  • Loh, Zoe
  • Estacio, Ortis
  • Chong, Geoff
  • Ha, Francis J
  • Gilbertson, Michael
  • Grigg, Andrew

publication date

  • 2018