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Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2013 Nov 15;110(46):783-90. doi: 10.3238/arztebl.2013.0783.

Myelodysplastic syndromes: diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment.

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Department of Haematology, Oncology and Clinical Immunology, Düsseldorf University Hospital.



Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are malignant stem-cell diseases that are usually diagnosed in elderly patients who present with anemia or, less commonly, bi- or pancytopenia. Their incidence in persons over age 80 is above 50 new cases per 100,000 persons per year. Their clinical course is highly variable. About one-quarter of all patients with MDS develop acute leukemia. The median survival time from the moment of diagnosis is about 30 months.


We selectively searched the PubMed database for pertinent articles and guidelines from the years 2000-2013. We used the search term "myelodysplastic syndromes."


MDS are diagnosed by cytology, with consideration of the degree of dysplasia and the percentage of blast cells in the blood and bone marrow, and on a cytogenetic basis, as recommended in the WHO classification. In particular, chromosomal analysis is necessary for prognostication. The Revised International Prognosis Scoring System (IPSS-R) enables more accurate prediction of the course of disease by dividing patients into a number of low- and high-risk groups. The median survival time ranges from a few months to many years. The approved treatments, aside from transfusion therapy, include iron depletion therapy for low-risk patients, lenalidomide for low-risk patients with a deletion on the long arm of chromosome 5, and 5-azacytidine for high-risk patients. High-risk patients up to age 70 who have no major accompanying illnesses should be offered allogenic stem-cell transplantation with curative intent. The cure rates range from 30% to 50%. Mucositis, hemorrhages, infections, and graft-versus-host diseases are the most common complications of this form of treatment.


Myelodysplastic syndromes are treated on an individualized, risk-adapted basis after precise diagnostic evaluation and after assessment of the prognosis. More studies are needed so that stage-adapted treatment can be improved still further.

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