Purpose: Splenectomized patients are known to be at risk of severe infection, but the extent of risk is unclear. We evaluated the incidence of severe infection and survival in 1648 splenectomized patients.
Methods: Patients who underwent splenectomy between 1988 and 1999 in Scotland were identified through the Scottish hospital discharge records (SMR01) and then linked to the death certificate data recorded by the General Register Office in Scotland to obtain clinical and demographical information.
Results: The overall rate of first severe infection was 7.0 per 100 person-years (95% confidence interval, 6.30-7.78). The overall rate for a second infection per 100 person-years was 44.9 and 109.3 for a third infection after the first episode of infection. Among the repeated episodes of severe infection, 42% to 76% and 61% to 84% of total episodes of second and third severe infection, respectively, occurred within 6 months after the first severe infection. The susceptibility to severe infection was greatest in older age groups (5.5 per 100 person-years in those aged > 50 years) and in patients splenectomized for hematologic malignancy (9.2), and iatrogenic splenectomy for malignancy disease (7.4). Between 50% and 80% of all severe infections or deaths occurred within 1 to 3 years after splenectomy.
Conclusions: The risk of severe infection is an important health problem in splenectomized patients, especially in those who underwent surgery for malignancies. Antibiotic prophylaxis could offer the most benefits in the first 3 years postsplenectomy or the first 6 months after the occurrence of a first severe infection.