The chronic myeloid disorders are collectively characterized by a stem cell origin of the clonal process and a variable tendency to undergo indigenous disease transformation and leukemic conversion. Classification of the chronic myeloid processes is based primarily on the presence or absence of the Philadelphia chromosome (bcr-abl translocation) and secondarily on the morphologic picture of the bone marrow in conjunction with the clinical manifestation. Essential thrombocythemia (ET), polycythemia vera (PV), and agnogenic myeloid metaplasia (AMM) constitute the classical group of bcr-abl negative chronic myeloproliferative disorders. PV is characterized by a clonal increase in red blood cell mass, AMM by bone marrow fibrosis, and ET by thrombocytosis. Most of these features, however, are not diagnostically specific, and secondary causes of erythrocytosis, thrombocytosis, and bone marrow fibrosis must be excluded. Treatment may be deferred or limited to phlebotomy alone in some patients with ET or PV, respectively. In contrast, thrombosisprone patients with PV or ET require drug therapy, and new platelet-lowering agents are increasingly being used. In this article, current diagnostic and therapeutic issues of ET, PV, and AMM are discussed.
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