Absolute lymphocyte count (ALC) recovery correlates with survival after autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (AHSCT) for patients with multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and metastatic breast cancer. The role of ALC recovery in relationship to clinical outcome after AHSCT in patients with acute myelogenous leukemia is unknown. We analyzed 45 patients who underwent AHSCT at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota between 1990 and 2000. The ALC threshold was selected at 500 cells/microl on day 15 post-AHSCT based on our previous studies. Thirty-two females and 13 males were included in the study with a median age of 45 years (range 12-75). The median follow-up was 14 months with a maximum of 129 months. The median overall and leukemia-free survival were significantly better for the 23 patients with ALC at day 15 > or =500 cells/microl compared with 22 patients with ALC <500 cells/microl (not yet reached vs 10 months, P < 0.0009; 105 vs 9 months, P < 0.0008, respectively). In conclusion, ALC > or =500 cells/microl on day 15 post-AHSCT is associated with better survival in acute myelogenous leukemia and requires further studies.