Splenectomy for adult patients with idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura: a systematic review to assess long-term platelet count responses, prediction of response, and surgical complications

Blood. 2004 Nov 1;104(9):2623-34. doi: 10.1182/blood-2004-03-1168. Epub 2004 Jun 24.


Splenectomy has been a standard treatment for adult patients with idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) for more than 50 years. However, the durability of responses, the ability to predict who will respond, and the frequency of surgical complications with splenectomy all remain uncertain. To better interpret current knowledge we systematically identified and reviewed all 135 case series, 1966 to 2004, that described 15 or more consecutive patients who had splenectomy for ITP and that had data for 1 of these 3 outcomes. Complete response was defined as a normal platelet count following splenectomy and for the duration of follow-up with no additional treatment. Forty-seven case series reported complete response in 1731 (66%) of 2623 adult patients with follow-up for 1 to 153 months; complete response rates did not correlate with duration of follow-up (r = -0.103, P = .49). None of 12 preoperative characteristics that have been reported consistently predicted response to splenectomy. Mortality was 1.0% (48 of 4955 patients) with laparotomy and 0.2% (3 of 1301 patients) with laparoscopy. Complication rates were 12.9% (318 of 2465) with laparotomy and 9.6% (88 of 921 patients) with laparoscopic splenectomy. Although the risk of surgery is an important consideration, splenectomy provides a high frequency of durable responses for adult patients with ITP.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Platelet Count
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Prognosis
  • Purpura, Thrombocytopenic, Idiopathic / complications
  • Purpura, Thrombocytopenic, Idiopathic / surgery*
  • Splenectomy / adverse effects*
  • Splenectomy / statistics & numerical data