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J Natl Med Assoc. 1978 Sep;70(9):667-70.

Immunologic defect of the alternate pathway-of-complement activation postsplenectomy: a possible relation between splenectomy and infection.


Total hemolytic complement (CH50) and activation of the alternate mechanism were measured in eight patients before and after splenectomy and compared to similar measurements made in a control group of patients following other abdominal surgery. In the splenectomy group, alternate-pathway-mediated activation of C3 was significantly different from the controls. The mean five-day postsplenectomy value of 16 percent for the immunoelectrophoretic conversion of C3 to C3i was depressed (p<0.001) from the presplenectomy value of 85 percent and five-month postsplenectomy level of 71 percent (p<0.01). The difference between presplenectomy and five-month postsplenectomy values was not significant. Further, activation of C3 in patients five days postsplenectomy was significantly less (p<0.01) than in the five-day postoperative controls. In both the splenectomized patients and control group, five-day postoperative determinations indicated an increase in CH50 values and a decrease in degree of activation of Factor B. The spleen appears to manufacture certain substances required for activation of C3 via the alternate mechanism. That the manufacture is eventually assumed by other immune-competent organs is shown by the eventual increase of activation toward preoperative levels five months postsplenectomy. This defect in C3 activation may account for the tendency of splenectomized patients to have an increased incidence of bacterial infections and sepsis in the postoperative period.

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