Late Septic Complications in Adults following Splenectomy for Trauma: A Prospective Analysis in 144 Patients


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Abstract

One hundred forty-four patients were prospectively followed through our Asplenic Registry for the development of late septic complications following splenectomy for trauma. There were 114 males and 30 females with a mean age of 28.6 years. The total time of followup was 8,810 patient months with a mean followup of 61 months (range, 12–144 months). Indications for splenectomy were blunt trauma, 111 patients; penetrating trauma, six patients; and intra-operative injury, 27 patients. During the followup to date, 15 late major septic complications requiring hospitalization have occurred in 13 patients (9%). Fulminant pneumococcal sepsis resulted in the death of a 27-year-old male, 3 years after splenectomy. Septicemia occurred in four patients, pneumonia in five, abscess in two, infection of a prosthetic heart valve in one, meningitis in one, and fever of unknown origin in one. All but two of these infections were due to encapsulated organisms. Minor septic complications occurred in 44 patients (30%), and consisted of infections which required outpatient medical care. Major late septic complications occurred more frequently following incidental splenectomy than following splenectomy for blunt or penetrating trauma (18.5% and 5.9% respectively; p < 0.05). The mortality from major septic complications in this series (7%) is lower than previously reported by other investigators (30–80%). Our data suggest that adults undergoing splenectomy for trauma are at an increased risk of developing late major septic complications. This risk is significant enough to warrant attempts at splenic salvage, especially when injury is incidental to an elective operative procedure. Careful followup and patient education after splenectomy through a registry may minimize the mortality rate from these septic complications.

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