To evaluate the prognostic impact of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) classifications, specimens from 300 patients with 20% or more bone marrow myeloblast cells were studied. Specimens were classified according to the French-American-British Cooperative Group (FAB), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Realistic Pathologic Classification, and a cytogenetic risk group scheme. Cases with fewer than 30% blast cells did not have a 5-year survival significantly different from cases with 30% or more blast cells, and survival was similar for the low blast cell count group and cases with multilineage dysplasia and 30% or more blasts. Categories of AML with recurrent cytogenetic abnormalities of t(15;17), t(8;21), inv(16)/t(16;16), and 11q23 showed significant differences in 5-year survival. No significant difference was identified between AMLs arising from myelodysplasia and de novo AMLs with multilineage dysplasia, but all cases with multilineage dysplasia had a worse survival than all other AMLs and other AMLs without favorable cytogenetics. FAB types M0, M3, and M4Eo showed differences in survival compared with all other FAB types, with M0 showing a significant association with high-risk cytogenetics and 11q23 abnormalities. Other FAB groups and WHO AML, not otherwise categorized subgroups did not show survival differences. These findings suggest that the detection of recurring cytogenetic abnormalities and multilineage dysplasia are the most significant features of current AML classification.