Differentiating benign and malignant causes of lymphocytosis in feline bone marrow.
Differentiation of benign and malignant causes of lymphocytosis in blood or bone marrow can be problematic. In the present study, reports of examinations of bone marrow from cats, submitted over an 8-year period, were reviewed to identify cats with increased numbers of small lymphocytes. Of 203 reports reviewed, 12 (5.9%) indicated increased numbers of small lymphocytes. Diagnoses for these cats included chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL; n = 2), pure red cell aplasia (PRCA; n = 4), immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA; n = 3), thymoma (n = 1), cholangiohepatitis (n = 1), and fever of unknown origin (n = 1). Several factors were identified that could be used to differentiate reactive lymphocytosis from CLL. Cats with CLL tended to be older, and lymphocytes were slightly larger and had cleaved or lobulated nuclei. Reactive lymphocytosis was associated with immune-mediated anemias and inflammatory diseases. In reactive lymphocytosis, the proliferating lymphocytes were organized into lymphoid aggregates in bone marrow and were predominately B cells. Alternatively, in CLL and thymoma, the proliferating lymphocytes were diffusely distributed and were predominately T cells. Therefore, differentiation of the causes of lymphocytosis should include evaluation of signalment, concurrent disease conditions, lymphocyte morphology, lymphocyte distribution in bone marrow, and immunophenotype. Cat age, presence of severe anemia, and evidence of inflammatory disease also should be considered.