Partial splenic embolization in patients with cirrhosis: efficacy, tolerance and long-term outcome in 32 patients

Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2005 Feb;17(2):179-84. doi: 10.1097/00042737-200502000-00008.


Background: Although partial splenic embolization (PSE) has been proposed in patients with cirrhosis in cases when thrombocytopenia or neutropenia may cause clinical manifestations or if there are contra-indications to other therapeutic procedures, there are limited data on long-term outcome. We provide a retrospective review of results and the tolerance of all PSE procedures in patients with cirrhosis in our department.

Patients and methods: Thirty-two consecutive patients with cirrhosis were included over a 6 year period. Indications for PSE were as follows: (1) severe cytopenia preventing necessary antiviral treatment (n=14), percutaneous destruction of hepatocellular carcinoma (n=8) or major surgery (n=3), severe purpura (n=3); (2) painful splenomegaly (n=4). After superselective catheterization, embolization was performed with up to 50% reduction of splenic blood flow.

Results: Thrombocyte and leucocyte counts increased markedly (185% and 51% at 1 month; 95% and 30% at 6 months). Thirty-one and 20 patients had platelet count >80,000/mm3 at months 1 and 6 vs only one before PSE. Overall, the aim of PSE was achieved in 27 patients (84%) (planned treatment: 20/25; disappearance of purpura and splenic pain: 7/7). Severe complications occurred in five patients (16%): transient ascites (n=2), splenic and/or portal vein thrombosis (n=2) that resolved after anticoagulation therapy, and splenic abscess (n=2) leading to death. These two patients had splenic necrosis >70%.

Conclusion: In patients with cirrhosis, PSE may resolve cytopenia and the clinical complications related to hypersplenism or splenomegaly. However, due to a high risk of severe complications, particularly splenic abscess, the indications of PSE should be very limited and the extent of necrosis should be strictly controlled during the PSE procedure.

MeSH terms

  • Abscess / etiology
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Embolization, Therapeutic / adverse effects
  • Embolization, Therapeutic / methods*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Hypersplenism / etiology
  • Hypersplenism / therapy*
  • Leukopenia / etiology
  • Leukopenia / therapy
  • Liver Cirrhosis / complications*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Splenic Diseases / etiology
  • Splenomegaly / etiology
  • Splenomegaly / therapy*
  • Thrombocytopenia / etiology
  • Thrombocytopenia / therapy
  • Treatment Outcome