Background: Portal vein thrombosis is a rare but potentially fatal complication of splenectomy. The aim of this study was to assess the incidence, risk factors, treatment and outcome of portal vein thrombosis after splenectomy in a large series of patients.
Methods: All patients who had undergone a splenectomy in the University Hospital, Rotterdam, between 1984 and 1997 were reviewed retrospectively. Splenectomy that was followed by symptomatic portal vein thrombosis was selected for analysis. Risk factors for portal vein thrombosis were sought.
Results: Of 563 splenectomies, nine (2 per cent) were complicated by symptomatic portal vein thrombosis. All these patients had either fever or abdominal pain. Two of 16 patients with a myeloproliferative disorder developed portal vein thrombosis after splenectomy (P = 0.03), and four of 49 patients with haemolytic anaemia (P = 0.005). Treatment within 10 days after splenectomy was successful in all patients, while delayed treatment was ineffective.
Conclusion: Portal vein thrombosis should be suspected in a patient with fever or abdominal pain after splenectomy. Patients with a myeloproliferative disorder or haemolytic anaemia are at higher risk; they might benefit from early detection and could have routine Doppler ultrasonography after splenectomy.