Hemorrhage in acute promyelocytic leukemia: Can it be predicted and prevented?

Leuk Res. 2020 Jul:94:106356. doi: 10.1016/j.leukres.2020.106356. Epub 2020 May 11.


Hemorrhagic death is the leading cause of treatment failure in acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL). Our ability to identify patients at greatest risk of hemorrhage, and to actively prevent hemorrhage, remains limited. Nevertheless, some data is available to guide contemporary clinical practice and future investigation. Circulating disease burden, best represented by the peripheral WBC / blast count, is the most consistent predictor of major and fatal bleeding risk. In contrast, laboratory markers of disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) appear to be poor predictors. A number of interventions have been posited to reduce bleeding risk. Prompt initiation of all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA), avoidance of invasive procedures, transfusion support, and cytoreduction all have theoretical merit. Though they lack strong evidence to support their benefit with respect to bleeding, they are associated with limited risks, and are therefore advisable. Low-dose therapeutic heparin and antifibrinolytics have not shown the ability to positively modify bleeding risk, and heparin has been associated with harm. Thrombomodulin has shown promise in limited retrospective studies however further prospective data are needed. rFVIIa may have a role in cases of life-threatening bleeding however evidence is largely anecdotal. Additional studies evaluating the above interventions, and investigating other potential interventions are needed.

Keywords: Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL); Bleeding; Hemorrhage; Induction; Prediction; Prevention.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blast Crisis* / blood
  • Blast Crisis* / complications
  • Blast Crisis* / drug therapy
  • Blast Crisis* / pathology
  • Factor VIII / therapeutic use
  • Hemorrhage* / blood
  • Hemorrhage* / drug therapy
  • Hemorrhage* / etiology
  • Hemorrhage* / pathology
  • Heparin / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Promyelocytic, Acute* / blood
  • Leukemia, Promyelocytic, Acute* / complications
  • Leukemia, Promyelocytic, Acute* / drug therapy
  • Leukemia, Promyelocytic, Acute* / pathology
  • Thrombomodulin / therapeutic use
  • Tretinoin / therapeutic use


  • Thrombomodulin
  • Tretinoin
  • F8 protein, human
  • Factor VIII
  • Heparin