Surgery has a very limited role in the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Because leukemia cells are spread widely throughout the bone marrow and blood, it’s not possible to cure this type of cancer with surgery. Surgery rarely has any role even in the diagnosis of AML, since this can usually be done with a bone marrow aspirate and biopsy. On rare occasions, an isolated tumor of leukemia cells (known as a myeloid sarcoma, granulocytic sarcoma, or chloroma) may be treated with surgery.
Often before chemotherapy starts, a minor type of surgery is done to place a small flexible tube, called a central venous catheter (CVC) (also known as a central line or venous access device), into a large vein in the chest. This may be done by a surgeon in the operating room, or by a special type of radiologist. The end of the tube stays just under the skin or sticks out in the chest area or upper arm. The CVC can be left in place during treatment (often for several months) to give intravenous (IV) drugs, such as chemotherapy, and to take blood samples for tests. This lowers the number of needle sticks needed during treatment. If you have a CVC, it is very important to learn how to care for it to keep it from getting infected.
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Last Revised: August 21, 2018