Body fluid specimens are regularly submitted to the hematology laboratory for cell count and differential. Unless there is high clinical suspicion for malignancy, most cases lack concurrent cytology review and may not benefit from more focused examination for malignancy.


To compare rates of malignancy detection before and after fluid-focused training for hematology technologists as part of a quality improvement initiative.


During an 8-week pretraining period, body fluids submitted to the cytology laboratory were correlated with concurrent hematology specimens. After slide review and training sessions for the hematology technologists, the same data were collected for a 4-week period. Discrepant cases were reviewed by hematology laboratory supervisors and pathologists.


We collected 465 pretraining and 249 posttraining body fluids with concurrent cytology and hematology evaluation. In the pretraining cohort, 48 cases (10.3%) were diagnosed as malignant by cytology; of those, 33 were detected by hematology. In the posttraining cohort, 30 cases (12.0%) were diagnosed as malignant by cytology of which 27 were detected by hematology. Of the 18 discrepant cases (all carcinomas), hematology slide review showed definite features of malignancy in 15 and no tumor cells in 3. The malignancy detection rate by the hematology laboratory significantly improved after training (68.8% versus 90.0%, P = .01).


We demonstrate the comparatively lower malignancy detection rate for body fluid specimens processed in our hematology laboratory, particularly for carcinomas. Hematology technologist education/training improved the malignancy detection rate, an important quality improvement given the large proportion of body fluids undergoing hematology evaluation without concurrent cytology reviews.

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Author notes

The authors have no relevant financial interest in the products or companies described in this article.

This study was presented in poster format at the 106th Annual Meeting of the United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology; March 8, 2017; San Antonio, Texas.

Drs Zhang and Maglantay are designated as co-first authors.