Splenectomy for the treatment of thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura

Br J Haematol. 2005 Sep;130(5):768-76. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2141.2005.05681.x.


Plasma exchange is the treatment of choice for patients with thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP) and results in remission in >80% of the cases. Treatment of patients who are refractory to plasma therapy or have relapsing disease is difficult. Splenectomy has been a therapeutic option in these conditions but its value remains controversial. We report on a series of 33 patients with TTP who were splenectomised because they were plasma refractory (n = 9) or for relapsed disease (n = 24). Splenectomy generated prompt and unmaintained remissions in all except five patients, in whom remission was delayed (n = 4) or who died with progressive disease (n = 1). Four postoperative complications occurred: one pulmonary embolism and three surgical complications. Median follow-up after splenectomy was 109 months (range 28-230 months). The overall postsplenectomy relapse rate was 0.09 relapses/patient-year and the 10-year relapse-free survival (RFS) was 70% (95% CI 50-83%). In the patients with relapsing TTP, relapse rate fell from 0.74 relapses/patient-year before splenectomy to 0.10 after splenectomy (P < 0.00001). Two patients died from first postsplenectomy relapse. Although these results are based on retrospective data and that the relapse rate may spontaneously decrease with time, we conclude that splenectomy, when performed during stable disease, has an acceptable safety profile and should be considered in cases of plasma refractoriness or relapsing TTP to reach durable remissions and to reduce or prevent future relapses.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Plasma Exchange
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Pulmonary Embolism / complications
  • Purpura, Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic / mortality
  • Purpura, Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic / surgery*
  • Recurrence
  • Remission Induction
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Splenectomy*
  • Treatment Outcome