The wandering spleen

Surg Gynecol Obstet. 1992 Oct;175(4):373-87.


Wandering spleen is an unusual entity, occurring in both sexes and at any age, but is more frequent in women of reproductive age and in children. Wandering spleen is probably most often a result of congenital anomalies of development of the dorsal mesogastrium, but acquired factors may have a role in certain instances. Patients present most commonly with an asymptomatic mass, mass and subacute abdominal or gastrointestinal complaints or with acute abdominal findings. Clinical diagnosis can be difficult, but noninvasive imaging procedures, such as sonography, nuclear scintigraphy, computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging are usually diagnostic. Laboratory tests are usually nonspecific, but may occasionally reveal evidence of hypersplenism or functional splenia. Symptoms may remain limited or absent for long periods of time, but complications related to torsion or compression of abdominal organs by the spleen or the pedicle are quite common. Splenomegaly is usually a result of torsion of the pedicle and splenic sequestration. Significant morbidity and mortality rates seem to be considerably less than described in 1933 and limited primarily to patients presenting initially with acute abdominal findings. Management recommendations have varied, but recognition of a significant risk of postsplenectomy sepsis supports a conservative approach. Patients with limited symptomatology may be medically managed until they exhibit worsening symptoms indicating progressive splenic torsion or gastrointestinal compression. Detorsion and splenopexy may be considered a reasonable surgical option even in patients presenting with acute abdomen, if there is no evidence of infarction, thrombosis or hypersplenism. Splenic preservation is especially recommended in extremely young patients who are at particular risk for postsplenectomy sepsis. However, it should be noted that follow-up evaluation data on splenopexy patients are notably lacking. Splenectomy is ideally reserved for patients presenting with acute abdomen and splenic infarction or thrombosis or with hypersplenism and patients in whom splenopexy is technically unfeasible. Subtotal splenectomy and splenic autotransplantation may be of limited value. Pneumococcal, Hemophilus and meningococcal vaccines are indicated before elective splenectomy and shortly after nonelective splenectomy. Antibiotic prophylaxis is recommended for those at particular risk. Prospective studies are unlikely, but extended follow-up information on patients already reported, particularly those managed expectantly or with conservative surgical measures, is needed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Congenital Abnormalities / diagnosis
  • Congenital Abnormalities / epidemiology
  • Congenital Abnormalities / etiology
  • Congenital Abnormalities / surgery
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Spleen / abnormalities*