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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2005;1054:317-24.

Coagulation and splenectomy: an overview.

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Department of Internal Medicine, Hereditary Anemia Center, Fondazione Policlinico, Mangiagalli, Regina Elena, IRCCS, University of Milan, Milan, Italy.


Venous thromboembolic events, such as pulmonary embolism, deep venous thrombosis, and portal vein thrombosis, have been observed in adult thalassemia patients, mainly in beta-thalassemia intermedia. The clinical findings are consistent with the observation of several alterations that indicate a state of activation of the hemostatic mechanisms in thalassemias. These alterations have usually been related to high platelet counts due to splenectomy and/or liver dysfunction. In a retrospective study of a large cohort of adults with thalassemia, we found a larger prevalence of venous thromboembolic events in transfusion-independent patients with thalassemia intermedia (29%) than in regularly transfused patients with thalassemia major (2%); moreover, the higher prevalence occurred particularly in splenectomized thalassemia intermedia patients. More recently, a multicenter study involving 56 tertiary referral centers in 7 countries was planned to assess the magnitude of thrombotic risk in thalassemia patients. The total number of patients who had thrombotic events was 146 (1.65%) out of 8860, with a prevalence of 0.9% in thalassemia major and 4% in thalassemia intermedia. The highest prevalence was confirmed in splenectomized patients. The observation that thrombotic events are more frequent in beta-thalassemia patients who are not receiving regular transfusions (thalassemia intermedia or thalassemia major patients in less developed countries with limited transfusion resources) or in thalassemic patients who have undergone splenectomy strongly supports the procoagulant activity of circulating damaged red blood cells.

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