Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Can J Surg. 2007 Oct;50(5):382-6.

Prevention of overwhelming postsplenectomy infection in thalassemia patients by partial rather than total splenectomy.

Author information

  • 1Department of Pathology, University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson, Miss. 39216, USA.



We aimed to evaluate the protective role of partial versus total splenectomy against sepsis in patients with thalassaemia when other preventive measures are not available. Overwhelming postsplenectomy infection is a serious complication of splenectomy in these patients, and most present with pneumococcal septicemia. Pneumococcal vaccine given before surgery is a well-established preventive measure.


In this study, we compared 2 populations of patients from Iraq and Saudi Arabia, both of whom underwent splenectomy for thalassaemia. All patients from Saudi Arabia were given a preoperative pneumococcal vaccine and underwent total splenectomy after about 4 weeks. Unfortunately, this vaccine was not available for the Iraqi patients. Partial splenectomy was offered to many of these patients as a protective measure against this fatal complication.


A significant difference was found between the total splenectomy fatalities in the 2 groups. There were 5 deaths in the 30 enrolled Iraqi patients over 4 years. One death over a 12-year period was reported in the 22 patients from Saudi Arabia. Partial splenectomy was associated with a dramatic reduction of mortality in the Iraqi patients. None of the 12 patients died during a follow-up period of 4 years.


Pneumovax is a powerful prophylactic tool against overwhelming postsplenectomy infection in patients with thalassaemia and should be used whenever available. In poor or problematic countries with limited health resources, partial rather than total splenectomy could offer an alternative measure to avoid this fatal complication.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for The Canadian Medical Association Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Support Center