• Users Online: 745
  • Print this page
  • Email this page

 Table of Contents  
Year : 2018  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 16-18

Status epilepticus as initial presentation of acute promyelocytic leukemia

Department of Critical Care, NMC Hospital, Dubai, UAE

Date of Web Publication23-Mar-2018

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Sunil Kumar Garg
NMC Hospital, Dubai
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/oji.oji_10_17

Rights and Permissions

Coagulopathy is a complex finding in acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), and it may occur due to interplay of the various factors. Neurological manifestations are rare as the initial presentation in APL. This case illustrates status epilepticus as the initial presentation in this disease. Atypical cells on peripheral smear led to the diagnosis of leukemia. This report demonstrates that the patient of APL can present as status epilepticus.

Keywords: Acute promyelocytic leukemia, acute stroke, atypical cells, status epilepticus

How to cite this article:
Garg SK, Garg P. Status epilepticus as initial presentation of acute promyelocytic leukemia. Oncol J India 2018;2:16-8

How to cite this URL:
Garg SK, Garg P. Status epilepticus as initial presentation of acute promyelocytic leukemia. Oncol J India [serial online] 2018 [cited 2023 Jun 5];2:16-8. Available from: https://www.ojionline.org/text.asp?2018/2/1/16/228323

  Introduction Top

Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) is a subtype of acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) and is characterized by the presence of abnormal hypergranular promyelocytes in peripheral blood and bone marrow.[1] Most of the signs and symptoms of APL are seen in AML, and it includes fatigue, weakness, and dyspnea due to low hemoglobin, easy bruising or bleeding due to thrombocytopenia, and fever or infection related to leukopenia. Most of the patients with APL present with pancytopenia. APL differs from AML in that most of the patients present with coagulopathy, and it has been described as disseminated intravascular coagulation with associated hyperfibrinolysis. In 40% of the untreated patients, pulmonary and cerebral hemorrhage can occur.[2] However, a few cases present with thromboses.

  Case Report Top

A 26-year-old male presented to the emergency department with a history of recurrent seizure for the last 1 hour without regaining consciousness. He was intubated, ventilated, and shifted to the Intensive Care Unit on midazolam infusion after loading with levetiracetam. His heart rate was 107/min regular, blood pressure 188/116 mmHg, respiratory rate 22/min, and temperature 36°C in the emergency department. He was unconscious and pupils were semidilated and fixed. His serum electrolytes, renal and liver function values were within the normal range. Complete blood counts revealed hemoglobin 16.2 g/dl, total white blood cell count 10,600/cumm, neutrophils 28%, lymphocytes 41%, monocytes 03%, eosinophils 05%, atypical cells 23%, and platelet count 158,000/cumm. Electrocardiography (ECG) showed the sinus tachycardia, and echocardiography was normal. Electroencephalography (EEG) done in Intensive Care Unit showed fast beta activity without any seizure discharges. His initial lactate values were elevated. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) examination done on the 2nd day was normal, but serum values of calcium, magnesium, and uric acid were elevated. His sedation was stopped after 24 h, but no improvement in the sensorium was noticed thereafter. EEG was repeated and it revealed the generalized slowing. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain showed multiple acute to subacute infarcts in bilateral thalami, midbrain involving both cerebral peduncles, pons, right corona radiata, right posteromedial temporal, right occipital cortex, and right parahippocampal gyrus [Figure 1] and [Figure 2]. In view of the anticipation of prolonged ventilation, tracheostomy was done and he was weaned off from ventilator. Atypical cells in peripheral smear continued to increase steadily thereafter and reached more than 90% on the 7th day of admission. He developed further worsening of neurological response on the 6th day and became completely unresponsive with the development of apnea, so he was again connected to mechanical ventilator. At this stage, plain computed tomography (CT) scan of the brain revealed large hypodensity involving left temporo-parieto-occipital lobe exerting mass effect [Figure 3]. CT scan of the neck angiography showed significant reduced caliber of the left internal carotid artery, and the left anterior and middle cerebral arteries were not contrast opacified [Figure 4]. There was also evidence of eccentric filling defect in the left vertebral artery, and distal basilar artery as well as its branches was not contrast opacified. The patient received supportive management including antibiotics and antifungals because of later development of candidemia. Morphologically, the flow cytometry revealed approximately 75% blast cells and cytochemical myeloperoxidase positivity. Finding of immunophenotyping includes blast cells (moderate side scatter/dim CD 45) express CD 33 (heterogeneous), and CD 117 (partial/dim). All other markers including human leukocyte antigen – antigen D related were negative. Confirmation of the APL was done by cytogenetic analysis and demonstration of promyelocytic leukemia-retinoic acid receptor alpha rearrangement by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction in the peripheral blood cells. The patient succumbed to his illness on the 10th day of admission.
Figure 1: Axial diffusion-weighted image at the level of thalamus showing diffusion restriction in bilateral thalamus and right occipital cortex

Click here to view
Figure 2: Axial flair image at the level of midbrain showing hyperintensity in midbrain, right parahippocampal gyrus, and right occipital cortex

Click here to view
Figure 3: Computed tomography scan showing large infarct with mass effects

Click here to view
Figure 4: Coronal maximum intensity projection angiogram image showing significantly reduced caliber of the left internal carotid artery

Click here to view

  Discussion Top

Central nervous system involvement is a rare complication of APL and is encountered more frequently at the relapse stage than at presentation, and only few cases have been reported in medical literature.[3],[4],[5],[6],[7] The present case is an APL initially presenting with status epilepticus.

APL is a unique disease entity associated with the distinctive morphology and chromosomal abnormality, and it is often accompanied by severe coagulopathy.[8] In an observational cohort study of 379 patients with acute leukemia, the overall incidence of thrombosis was 6.3% and it was the presenting manifestation in 3.4% of all patients, with a higher rate among patients with APL (9.6%).[9] Data regarding the risk factors for thrombosis emerged in a larger PETHEMA study. The overall incidence of thrombosis was 5.1% (39/759), with 6 out of the 26 patients who died before initiation of chemotherapy presenting with thrombotic events (three cerebral strokes, two pulmonary emboli, and one acute myocardial infarction).[10]

The patient with APL can present with ischemic stroke, and acute stroke can be associated with status epilepticus. Initial MRI of the brain done 3 days later revealed multiple acute to subacute infarct bilaterally. We initially attributed MRI changes to status epilepticus and atypical cells in the peripheral smear as reactive. We believe that the initial MRI findings were not due to status epilepticus but was the cause of status epilepticus as we could not find other reasons of status epilepticus as cerebrospinal fluid was also normal. Only when the patient stopped seizuring, atypical cells continued to rise and the patient started to have fall in hemoglobin and platelets we thought of leukemia as the underlying problem.

Blood dyscrasias should not be overlooked in patients with the acute onset of neurological symptoms.

Declaration of patient consent

The authors certify that they have obtained all appropriate patient consent forms. In the form the patient(s) has/have given his/her/their consent for his/her/their images and other clinical information to be reported in the journal. The patients understand that their names and initials will not be published and due efforts will be made to conceal their identity, but anonymity cannot be guaranteed.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Kapoor R, Pati HP, Gupta SK, Gupta N. Acute promyelocytic leukemia presenting as ischemic stroke in young. Indian J Hematol Blood Transfus 2013;29:93-5.  Back to cited text no. 1
Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia Clinical Presentation. Available from: https://www.emedicine.medscape.com/article/1495306-clinical. [Last accessed on 2017 Jul].  Back to cited text no. 2
Kanakura Y, Yonezawa T, Hamaguchi Y, Otsuka A, Matayoshi Y, Kondoh H, et al. Acute promyelocytic leukemia with an intracerebral mass and meningeal involvement after treatment of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Cancer 1987;59:94-8.  Back to cited text no. 3
Pogliani EM, Fowst C, Marozzi A, Salvatore M, Polli EE. Cerebral parenchymal involvement in acute promyelocytic leukemia. A case report. Haematologica 1988;73:71-3.  Back to cited text no. 4
Hara T, Tsurumi H, Yamada T, Sawada M, Moriwaki H. Detection of acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) cells intermediately differentiated by all-trans retinoic acid in the cerebrospinal fluid: Central nervous system involvement in APL. Leuk Lymphoma 2000;39:213-5.  Back to cited text no. 5
Classen CF, Debatin KM, Friedrich W, Schulz AS. Long-term remission of APL with a second allogeneic BMT after CNS relapse following HLA-identical allogeneic BMT. Bone Marrow Transplant 2003;32:843-6.  Back to cited text no. 6
Collins C, Knoderer H. Central nervous system involvement at the time of presentation in acute promyelocytic leukemia. Pediatr Blood Cancer 2010;54:603-5.  Back to cited text no. 7
Parmar S, Tallman MS. Acute promyelocytic leukaemia: A review. Expert Opin Pharmacother 2003;4:1379-92.  Back to cited text no. 8
De Stefano V, Sorà F, Rossi E, Chiusolo P, Laurenti L, Fianchi L, et al. The risk of thrombosis in patients with acute leukemia: Occurrence of thrombosis at diagnosis and during treatment. J Thromb Haemost 2005;3:1985-92.  Back to cited text no. 9
Montesinos P, De la Serna J, Vellenga E. Incidence and risk factors for thrombosis in patients with acute promyelocytic leukemia. Experience of the PETHEMA LPA96 and LPA99 protocols. Blood 2011;108:1503.  Back to cited text no. 10


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4]


Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
 Related articles
Access Statistics
Email Alert *
Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)

  In this article
Case Report
Article Figures

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded219    
    Comments [Add]    

Recommend this journal