The rapid and accurate diagnosis of childhood malignancy is important both in the planning of appropriate treatment and in relieving the inevitable family anxiety. The use of flow cytometry to analyse monoclonal antibody coated single cell suspensions is widely accepted as having increased the speed and accuracy of diagnosis in leukaemias, though its use in solid tumour diagnosis is not widely reported. Ten cases of childhood malignancy in whom the diagnosis was initially made by flow cytometry and subsequently confirmed histologically are described. The technique has a number of advantages. Only a small sample is required as the analysis is carried out on a single cell suspension, the method is rapid, a diagnosis being reached within three hours of receipt of the sample, and information is obtained on cell lineage and stage of differentiation. Diagnostic accuracy is good when compared with histological results.
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