The natural history of pancreatitis-induced splenic vein thrombosis

Ann Surg. 2004 Jun;239(6):876-80; discussion 880-2. doi: 10.1097/01.sla.0000128685.74686.1e.


Objective: To determine the natural history of pancreatitis-induced splenic vein thrombosis with particular attention to the risk of gastric variceal hemorrhage.

Summary background data: Previous studies have suggested that splenic vein thrombosis results in a high likelihood of gastric variceal bleeding and that splenectomy should be performed to prevent hemorrhage. Recent improvements in cross-sectional imaging have led to the identification of splenic vein thrombosis in patients with minimal symptoms. Our clinical experience suggested that gastric variceal bleeding in these patients was uncommon.

Methods: A computerized index search from 1993 to 2002 for the medical records of patients with a diagnosis of pancreatitis was performed. Fifty-three patients with a diagnosis of pancreatitis and splenic vein thrombosis were identified. The medical records of these patients were reviewed, and follow-up was completed, including the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire (EORTC-QLQ).

Results: Gastrosplenic varices were identified in 41 patients (77%) with varices evident on computed tomography (CT) in 40 of 53 patients, on esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) in 11 of 36 patients, and on both CT and EGD in 10 of 36 patients. This risk of variceal bleeding was 5% for patients with CT-identified varices and 18% for EGD-identified varices. Overall, only 2 patients (4%) had gastric variceal bleeding and required splenectomy. Functional quality of life was better than historical controls surgically treated for chronic pancreatitis.

Conclusion: Gastric variceal bleeding from pancreatitis-induced splenic vein thrombosis occurs in only 4% of patients; therefore, routine splenectomy is not recommended.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Endoscopy, Gastrointestinal / methods
  • Esophageal and Gastric Varices / diagnosis
  • Esophageal and Gastric Varices / therapy
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / diagnosis*
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / therapy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pancreatitis / complications*
  • Pancreatitis / diagnosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Splenectomy / methods
  • Splenic Diseases / diagnosis
  • Splenic Diseases / etiology*
  • Splenic Diseases / surgery
  • Splenic Vein
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Venous Thrombosis / diagnosis
  • Venous Thrombosis / etiology*
  • Venous Thrombosis / surgery