Clinical impact of the baseline echocardiogram in children with high-risk acute lymphoblastic leukemia

Taurino Avelar, Linda B. Pauliks, Andrew S. Freiberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: It is common practice to hold anthracycline induction chemotherapy in children with high-risk acute lymphoblastic leukemia (HR-ALL) until an echocardiogram is performed and interpreted. It is unclear whether withholding therapy in HR-ALL children is justified by echocardiogram findings. We reviewed the initial echocardiograms in a cohort of children with HR-ALL to determine the incidence of contraindications for anthracycline treatment. Procedure: We identified 50 consecutive children (<21 years old) with HR-ALL presenting at our institution over a 10-year period. One didn't have an initial echocardiogram, 39 had pre-therapy studies, and 10 were studied within 6 days of beginning chemotherapy. These 49 studies were reviewed to determine the incidence and clinical significance of abnormalities. Results: All 49 patients had normal cardiac function. Initial echocardiogram findings had no impact on induction chemotherapy administration in any patient. However, only 22(45%) of the studies were completely normal. Echocardiographic abnormalities included pericardial effusion (17/49), trivial or mild mitral or aortic insufficiency (13/49), left ventricular enlargement (3/49), and structural heart disease (4/49). Twelve percent of the children had a patent foramen ovale. None of the cardiac findings required therapeutic intervention other than repositioning of indwelling lines (6/49) due to intracardiac positioning. Conclusions: In our experience, findings on echocardiograms in childhood HR-ALL did not impact anthracycline administration. This study suggests that induction chemotherapy should not be delayed for an echocardiogram. However, whenever possible, a pre-therapy echocardiogram is still recommended for determining baseline function and to identify associated problems like pericardial effusions which were common in this study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)227-230
Number of pages4
JournalPediatric Blood and Cancer
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Hematology
  • Oncology


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