Review of the Association between Splenectomy and Chronic Thromboembolic Pulmonary Hypertension

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Recent evidence suggests that there may be a link between splenectomy and the later development of pulmonary hypertension, in particular World Health Organization group IV pulmonary hypertension (chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension). Epidemiological studies have demonstrated an odds ratio as high as 18 for the development of chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension after splenectomy in comparison with matched control subjects who have not undergone splenectomy. The mechanisms governing the association between removal of the spleen and the subsequent development of chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension remain incompletely understood; however, recent advances in understanding of coagulation homeostasis have shed some light on this association. Splenectomy increases the risk of venous thromboembolic disease, a necessary precursor of chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension, by generating a prothrombotic state. This prothrombotic state likely results from a reduction in the removal of circulating procoagulant factors from the bloodstream after splenectomy. Although much is to be learned, circulating microparticles have emerged as the most likely mediator for the development of thrombosis after splenectomy. Apparently because of a reduction in reticuloendothelial cell clearance, microparticle levels are elevated in patients after splenectomy. Elevated circulating microparticle levels have been linked to thromboembolism and pulmonary hypertension in a dose-dependent fashion. It is important for health care providers to be aware of the link between splenectomy and chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension. We are optimistic that clarification of the exact mechanisms that govern this association will yield clinical guidelines and potential treatments.

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