Management of Complications of Hematologic Malignancies in the Elderly

Jeffrey Zonder, MD
Ulka Vaishampayan, MD
Division of Hematology/Oncology,
Department of Medicine
Wayne State University School of Medicine/Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute
Detroit, MI, USA.


The incidence of hematologic malignancies, especially lymphoma, is steadily rising in the elderly. These diseases and their complications pose specific problems for older patients. Factors that contribute to increased toxicity in the elderly include diminished marrow reserve, impaired renal and hepatic metabolism and, perhaps most importantly, poor performance status as a result of comorbidities.1 This article will focus on the management of common complications of hematologic malignancies, particularly as they pertain to older patients.

Febrile Neutropenia

Risk of Neutropenia in the Elderly
The incidence of life-threatening neutropenia (absolute neutrophil count, ANC, <0.5x 109/L) in elderly patients following chemotherapy for hematologic malignancies is 40% or higher.2 The risk of infection is affected by the duration and severity of neutropenia with a steep rise in infection incidence at a neutrophil count of less than 0.5x 109/L.