Splenectomy Versus Medical Treatment for Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura

Am J Surg. 2002 Dec;184(6):606-9; discussion 609-10. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9610(02)01091-7.


Background: Treatment strategies for idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) are still uncertain and its management is primarily empirical. The aim of this study was to investigate the role of splenectomy in the therapy of ITP and to evaluate whether medical or surgical treatment is superior.

Methods: Ninety-two patients with ITP were included in the study. All of these patients had medical therapy and 38 of them underwent splenectomy subsequently. Follow-up was completed in 91 patients after a median of 64 months.

Results: Side effects of medical therapy were noticed in 32 patients (35%), whereas after surgery only 2 patients (5%) had minor complications. A complete or partial remission was achieved in 35 patients (92%) after splenectomy, whereas this was achieved in only 27 patients (30%) after medical therapy. On multivariate analysis splenectomy and age were the only significant independent factors for complete and partial remission.

Conclusions: Splenectomy is highly effective and safe in the treatment of ITP and is superior over medical therapy. These results should stimulate the discussion about splenectomy for ITP, possibly establishing evidence-based guidelines for surgical treatment in hematology.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / therapeutic use
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use
  • Hematologic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulins / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Purpura, Thrombocytopenic, Idiopathic / drug therapy*
  • Purpura, Thrombocytopenic, Idiopathic / surgery*
  • Remission Induction
  • Splenectomy*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vinblastine / therapeutic use


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Hematologic Agents
  • Immunoglobulins
  • Vinblastine