Cell morphology test

PDF download is not available for Arabic and Urdu languages at this time. Please use the browser print function instead

Learn how a cell morphology test is performed and how it can confirm a leukemia diagnosis.

Key points

  • The cell morphology tests examines the size and shape of bone marrow cells to distinguish healthy cells from abnormal cells that may be cancerous.

To help confirm your child’s leukemia diagnosis, a lab specialist studies the shape and size of the bone marrow cells. This is called a cell morphology test and can help distinguish the type of leukemia. Analyzing the cells this way is the first step in the diagnosis process for leukemia.

Other tests, including a flow cytometry, are also performed to help confirm the diagnosis. In some patients, the leukemia cells can be seen in the peripheral blood from the initial blood test. However, in this case, a bone marrow test is still required.

How the cell morphology test works

Your child's peripheral blood or bone marrow aspirate is first air-dried on glass slides. The sample is then stained with a dye so the lab specialist can look at the cells under a microscope. The stain provides a snapshot of what your child's cells look like. By studying various features of the cells such as their size and shape, the cell morphology test can distinguish healthy cells from abnormal cells that may be cancerous.

Last updated: March 6th 2018