Air following splenic embolization: Infection or incidental finding?

James Haan, Grant Bochicchio, Mary Kramer, Thomas Scalea

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19 Scopus citations


The use of splenic embolization for nonoperative management has increased. With increased use of this adjunct, a new and frequent finding has been air within the areas of infarction in patients with or without clinical signs of infection. The purpose of this study was to determine if air within areas of splenic infarction is pathologic of infection or rather an incidental finding. A retrospective review over the past 3 years of inpatients undergoing splenic embolization and having pre- and postembolization abdominal computed tomography scans were reviewed for the findings of free air as well as any clinical signs of infection. A total of 96 consecutive patients were included. Of these, 12 had evidence of infarction with air. Six of these patients had undergone distal embolization with intraparenchymal air, but no symptoms. These were successfully observed. Two patients demonstrated subcapsular air/fluid levels, which underwent drainage with splenic preservation. Cultures were negative for infection. The remaining 4 underwent splenectomy. Of these, all had large collections of air. Two of these 4 spleens were infected: 1 with alpha-hemolytic Streptococcus and one with Clostridia perfringens. The remainder was sterile. This gave an overall infection rate of 17 per cent of patients with evidence of air. This yield increased to 33 per cent if the patient had symptoms and 50 per cent in those with large amounts of air and symptoms. Overall, we feel that air following embolization is a concern, but does not constitute infection. Patients with large amounts of air and signs and symptoms of infection will have a far higher infectious rate, 50 per cent in this limited series. In these patients, evaluation for infection is indicated; that being percutaneous sampling versus splenectomy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1036-1039
Number of pages4
JournalAmerican Surgeon
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2003


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