Asplenia medical treatment

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Anum Dilip, M.B.B.S[2]


Emergency Medical Management of suspected sepsis in Asplenic patient with antibiotics and immunization.

Medical Therapy

Emergency Medical Management of suspected sepsis in Asplenic patient

Asplenia can cause sepsis and require immediate management:[1]

To minimize the risks, antibiotic & vaccination protocols have been established,[3][4] but are often poorly adhered to by doctors and patients.[5]

Antibiotic prophylaxis

Because of the increased risk of infection, physicians administer oral antibiotics as a prophylaxis after a surgical splenectomy. The duration suggested varies: one suggestion is that antibiotics be taken for two years or until the age of sixteen years old is reached, whichever is longer.

Patients are also cautioned to start a full-dose course of antibiotics at the first onset of an upper or lower respiratory tract infection (for example, sore throat or cough), or at the onset of any fever.


It is suggested that splenectomized persons receive the following vaccinations, and ideally prior to planned splenectomy surgery:

  • pneumococcus every 6 years (a conjugated form is used for children under 2 years)
  • Haemophilus influenzae - whilst in many countries now routinely given to all children, a single booster is advised following the development of asplenia, but for those adults who have not been previously vaccinated, two doses given two months apart were advised in the new 2006 UK vaccination guidelines (in the UK may be given as a combined Hib/MenC vaccine).[6]
  • meningococcus-'C' conjugate vaccine - again routinely given to children in many countries, previously vaccinated adults require a single booster and non-immunised adults advised, in UK since 2006, to have two doses given two months apart.[6]
  • annual flu vaccinations - to help prevent getting secondary bacterial infection.

Travel measures

In addition to the normal immunizations advised for the countries to be visited, Group A meningococcus should be included if visiting counties of particular risk (e.g. sub-Saharan Africa). The non-conjugated Meningitis A&C vaccines usually used for this purpose give only 3 years coverage and provide less effective long-term cover for Meningitis C than the conjugated form already mentioned.

Those lacking a functional spleen are at higher risk of catching malaria and dying from this. Travel to malarial areas will carry greater risks and may be best avoided. Travelers should take the most appropriate anti-malarial prophylaxis medication and be extra vigilant over measures to prevent mosquito bites.

The pneumococcal vaccinations may not cover some of the other strains of pneumococcal bacteria present in other countries. Likewise, their antibiotic resistance may also vary, requiring a different choice of stand-by antibiotic.

Additional measures

  • Surgical and Dental procedures - Antibiotic prophylaxis may be required before certain surgical or dental procedures.
  • Animal bites - adequate antibiotic cover is required after even minor dog or other animal bites. Asplenic patients are particularly susceptible to infection by C. canimorsus and should receive a five-day course of co-amoxiclav (erythromycin in patients allergic to penicillin).[7]
  • Tick bites - Babesiosis is a rare tick-borne infection. Patients should check themselves or have themselves inspected for tick bites if they are in an at-risk situation. Presentation with fever, fatigue, and hemolytic anaemia requires diagnostic confirmation by identifying the parasites within red blood cells on blood film and by specific serology. Quinine (with or without clindamycin) is usually an effective treatment.[7]
  • Alert warning - Consider carrying a card, or wearing a special bracelet or necklet which says that you do not have a working spleen. This would alert a doctor to take rapid action if you are seriously ill and cannot tell them yourself.


  1. Salvadori MI, Price VE, Canadian Paediatric Society, Infectious Diseases and Immunization Committee (2014). "Preventing and treating infections in children with asplenia or hyposplenia". Paediatr Child Health. 19 (5): 271–8. PMC 4029242. PMID 24855431.
  2. Rhodes A, Evans LE, Alhazzani W, Levy MM, Antonelli M, Ferrer R; et al. (2017). "Surviving Sepsis Campaign: International Guidelines for Management of Sepsis and Septic Shock: 2016". Intensive Care Med. 43 (3): 304–377. doi:10.1007/s00134-017-4683-6. PMID 28101605.
  3. "Guidelines for the prevention and treatment of infection in patients with an absent or dysfunctional spleen. Working Party of the British Committee for Standards in Haematology Clinical Haematology Task Force". BMJ. 312 (7028): 430–4. 1996. PMID 8601117.
  4. J M Davies; et al. (2001-06-02). "The Prevention And Treatment Of Infection In Patients With An Absent Or Dysfunctional Spleen - British Committee for Standards in Haematology Guideline up-date". BMJ.
  5. Waghorn DJ (2001). "Overwhelming infection in asplenic patients: current best practice preventive measures are not being followed". J Clin Pathol. 54 (3): 214–8. PMID 11253134.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (21 December 2006). "Chapter 7 : Immunisation of individuals with underlying medical conditions". In Editors Salisbury D, Ramsay M, Noakes K. Immunisation Against Infectious Disease 2006 (PDF). Edinburgh: Stationery Office. ISBN 0113225288. - see pages 50-1 and table 7.1
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Guidelines for the prevention and treatment of infection in patients with an absent or dysfunctional spleen" (PDF). UK Southern Health Board. 2002 September. Check date values in: |year= (help)

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