Invasive pneumococcal infections in children with asplenia

Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2002 Apr;21(4):278-82. doi: 10.1097/00006454-200204000-00004.


Background: Asplenia is associated with an increased risk of infections caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae. Overwhelming infection can be fulminate and lead to a fatal outcome.

Objective: To review the epidemiology and clinical course of invasive S. pneumoniae infections in children with asplenia before the release of the conjugate pneumococcal vaccine.

Methods: Children with S. pneumoniae infections from eight children's hospitals in the US were identified prospectively from September, 1993, to August, 1999. Further demographic, medical and microbiologic information was gathered retrospectively from the charts of patients with asplenia.

Results: Twenty-two asplenic patients with 26 episodes of invasive S. pneumoniae were identified. This represents 1% of the 2,581 episodes of invasive S. pneumoniae infections identified in our study. Twelve had congenital asplenia (CA), and 10 had undergone surgical splenectomy. Nine of the patients with CA had associated complex congenital heart disease. The median age at first infection was 12.5 months for CA patients as compared with 69 months in children with surgical splenectomy (P < 0.001). Seventy-five percent of those eligible had received the polysaccharide pneumococcal vaccine. The most common serotypes isolated were 6B (8), 23F (7), 18C (2) and 19A (2). Antimicrobial prophylaxis had been prescribed for 82% of the study cohort. Clinical presentations of the 26 episodes included fever (22), shock (7), petechiae or purpura (7), disseminated intravascular coagulation (5) and respiratory distress (5). Clinical illness included bacteremia alone (12), meningitis alone (8), bacteremia with otitis media-sinusitis (3), bacteremia with pneumonia (2) and meningitis with osteomyelitis (1). Five of the 6 patients who died had meningitis. Three of the survivors (19%) had significant morbidity, and all of them had meningitis. Two patients had 2 episodes each, and 1 patient had 3 episodes. All but 1 of the multiple episodes was with a different serotype. Forty-six percent of isolates were nonsusceptible to penicillin, and 19% were nonsusceptible to ceftriaxone. There was no association between antimicrobial resistance and mortality.

Conclusions: Invasive pneumococcal disease in patients with asplenia has a high mortality, especially in those with meningitis. Even though the new conjugate vaccine might increase protection, 19% of patients had disease caused by serotypes not included in the current heptavalent vaccine. Clinicians should continue to be aggressive in evaluating asplenic patients with unexplained fevers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Pneumococcal Infections / epidemiology
  • Pneumococcal Infections / etiology*
  • Pneumococcal Vaccines / administration & dosage
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Spleen / abnormalities*
  • Splenectomy / adverse effects*


  • Pneumococcal Vaccines