Clinical Significance of Smudge Cells in Peripheral Blood Smears in Hematological Malignancies and Other Diseases


Department of Clinical Pathology, 2Department of Emergency, Far Eastern Memorial Hospital, New Taipei, Taiwan


Background: It is reported that the percentage of smudge cells in the blood smear could be a prognostic indicator in chronic lymphocytic leukemia. However, the clinical significance of smudge cells in other hematological malignancies, solid tumors or non-malignant diseases is less clear. Hence, this study was conducted to survey the clinical significance of smudge cells in hematological cancers and other disorders. Materials and Methods: From January to November, 2015, the clinical data of patients who received blood examination with differential counts for clinical purpose and were found to have smudge cells in the peripheral blood film in Far Eastern Memorial Hospital were selected. The percentage of smudge cells and patient outcomes were evaluated for further univariate and survival analyses. Results: A total of 102 patients with smudge cells in their blood smears were included. Smudge cells were frequently presented in out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA; n=30), infections (n=23), hematological cancers (n=23) and solid cancers (n=10). There was no relationship between the percentage of smudge cells and the patient mortality in all diseases (OR: 1.08, 95% CI: 0.47-2.48, P=1.000) as well as the OHCA group (OR: 1.91, 95% CI: 0.38-9.60, P=0.694). It was observed that in patients with all cancers with the percentage of smudge cells less than 50% had a lower mortality rate in comparison with those who had the percentage of smudge cells of 50% or more (OR: 22.29, 95% CI: 2.38-208.80, <0.001). Additionally, it was seemingly that patients with smudge cells of 50% or more had a lower survival rate than those with smudge cells less than 50% in all cancers with follow-up at 2-month intervals, but without statistical significance (P=0.064). Conclusions: Our survey indicated that in all cancers, those who had higher percentage of smudge cells were prone to have poor outcomes when compared with the subjects with lower percentage of smudge cells. This finding was quite different from the results of previous studies in which the race-ethnicity of most study populations was non-Asian; hence, further investigations are required. Besides, there was no apparent association of the percentage of smudge cells with patient outcomes in all diseases, including OHCA.