© 2017 Ferrata Storti Foundation. The presence of circulating plasma cells in patients with multiple myeloma is considered a marker for highly proliferative disease. In the study herein, the impact of circulating plasma cells assessed by cytology on survival of patients with multiple myeloma was analyzed. Wright-Giemsa stained peripheral blood smears of 482 patients with newly diagnosed myeloma or plasma cell leukemia were reviewed and patients were classified into 4 categories according to the percentage of circulating plasma cells: 0%, 1-4%, 5-20%, and plasma cell leukemia with the following frequencies: 382 (79.2%), 83 (17.2%), 12 (2.5%) and 5 (1.0%), respectively. Median overall survival according to the circulating plasma cells group was 47, 50, 6 and 14 months, respectively. At multivariate analysis, the presence of 5 to 20% circulating plasma cells was associated with a worse overall survival (relative risk 4.9, 95%CI 2.6-9.3) independently of age, creatinine, the Durie-Salmon system stage and the International Staging System (ISS) stage. Patients with ≥5% circulating plasma cells had lower platelet counts (median 86x109/L vs. 214x109/L, P<0.0001) and higher bone marrow plasma cells (median 53% vs. 36%, P=0.004). The presence of ≥5% circulating plasma cells in patients with multiple myeloma has a similar adverse prognostic impact as plasma cell leukemia.