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J Pediatr Surg. 1981 Oct;16(5):717-24.

The effect of partial splenectomy on experimental pneumococcal bacteremia in an animal model.


The effect of total and partial splenectomy on the blood stream clearance of type 23B Streptococcus pneumoniae was studied in chinchillas 2 wk and 2 mo following surgery to determine the amount of splenic tissue necessary for protection against overwhelming sepsis. Significantly more pneumococci were found in the blood of totally splenectomized chinchillas than in the blood of sham-operated animals throughout the 6-hr sampling period after intravenous inoculation of pneumococci. Animals that had two-thirds of their spleen removed demonstrated a significant delay in clearance of pneumococci compared with sham-operated and hemisplenectomized animals. The rate of pneumococcal clearance was similar for the sham-operated and the hemisplenectomized group, and was significantly prolonged but similar among totally splenectomized and two-thirds splenectomized animals. Pneumococcal opsonic activity was reduced only in the sera of totally splenectomized chinchillas 2 mo after surgery. There was no positive relationship between pneumococcal clearance and change in pneumococcal opsonic activity. These results suggest that the impaired clearance of circulating pneumococci in splenectomized animals is due to the loss of splenic reticuloendothelial cells as a mechanical filter, rather than deficient serum opsonic activity. There appears to be a critical splenic mass required for optimal bacterial clearance, and hemisplenectomy may protect against overwhelming postsplenectomy sepsis.

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