The pathological hallmark of myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) is marrow dysplasia, which represents the basis of the WHO classification of these disorders. This classification provides clinicians with a useful tool for defining the different subtypes of MDS and determining individual prognosis. The WHO proposal has raised some concern regarding minimal diagnostic criteria particularly in patients with normal karyotype without robust morphological markers of dysplasia (such as ring sideroblasts or excess of blasts). Therefore, there is clearly a need to refine the accuracy to detect marrow dysplasia. Flow cytometry (FCM) immunophenotyping has been proposed as a tool to improve the evaluation of marrow dysplasia. Rationale for the application of FCM in the diagnostic work up of MDS is that immunophenotyping is an accurate method for quantitative and qualitative evaluation of hematopoietic cells and that MDS have been found to have abnormal expression of several cellular antigens. To become clinically applicable, FCM analysis should be based on parameters with sufficient specificity and sensitivity, data should be reproducible between different operators and the results should be easily understood by clinicians. In this report, we reviewed the most relevant progresses in detection of marrow dysplasia by FCM in MDS as defined by WHO criteria.
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