The incidence of splenectomy is decreasing: Lessons learned from trauma experience

Amy T. Rose, Martin I. Newman, Jacob Debelak, C. Wright Pinson, John A. Morris, David D. Harley, William C. Chapman

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36 Scopus citations


Over the past decade, splenic preservation has become a well-reported and accepted principle in trauma management. The reasons for splenic preservation may have influenced nontraumatic surgical management as well. To investigate the changing incidence and indications for splenectomy, we conducted a 10-year review of all splenectomies at our institution. During this time, between January 1, 1986, and December 31, 1995, 896 patients underwent splenectomy. Hospital charts and records were examined to determine the etiology and incidence of splenectomy. Indications were classified as: 1) trauma, i.e., performed for blunt or penetrating injury; 2) hematologic malignancy, i.e., therapy or staging of underlying leukemia, Hodgkin's lymphoma, or non-Hodgkin's lymphoma; 3) cytopenia, i.e., treatment of thrombocytopenia, anemia, or leukopenia; 4) iatrogenic, i.e., injury during another procedure; 5) incidental, i.e., required for adjacent organ resection; 6) portal hypertension, i.e., left-sided portal hypertension or during shunting procedure; 7) diagnostic, i.e., uncertainty excluding hematologic malignancy; or 8) other, i.e., miscellaneous indications. Trauma accounted for 41.5 per cent of all splenectomies during this time period, hematologic malignancy 15.4 per cent, cytopenia 15.6 per cent, incidental 12.3 per cent, iatrogenic 8.1 per cent, portal hypertension 2.3 per cent, diagnostic 2.0 per cent, and other 2.7 per cent. Comparing the first and second 5-year time periods, the following increases/decreases in average annual incidence were noted: splenectomy for all indications, -36.9 per cent; trauma, -32.9 per cent; hematologic malignancy, -51.4 per cent; cytopenia, 35.1 per cent; incidental, -35.9 per cent; iatrogenic, -30.2 per cent; diagnostic, +4.9 per cent, and other, -57 per cent. Traumatic injury to the spleen remains the most common indication for splenectomy, but the incidence has decreased dramatically over the past 10 years. Splenectomies for treatment of hematologic malignancies and cytopenia, as well as incidental and iatrogenic splenectomies, have also decreased significantly. Only the incidence of diagnostic splenectomy has remained stable. Although initiated within the field of trauma, the advantages of splenic preservation now appear to be well recognized beyond that field.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)481-486
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Surgeon
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2000


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