The incidence of adult leukaemias, their response to therapy and the complications of therapy were studied in 121 cases over seven years (1981-1987). All cases were followed up till recovery or death for periods ranging from seven days to seven years. Adult leukaemias accounted for 2.56% of all admissions due to malignancies. There were 21 cases of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, 61 of acute myelogenous leukaemia, 36 of chronic myelocytic leukaemia and 3 chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. All received aggressive combination chemotherapy. Remission could be achieved in 57% to 60% of cases. Infection (34%), bleeding (34%), and central nervous system involvement (25%) were the complications during therapy. The cause of death was ascertained in 87 of 90 deaths by a detailed postmortem. Haemorrhage (34.5%), infection (31%) and uncontrolled leukaemia (22%) were the leading causes, either singly or in combination. Some of the uncommon causes of death were fulminant hepatic failure, coronary artery disease, gangrene of the colon and disseminated tuberculosis.
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