Assessment of splenic function

Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis. 2010 Dec;29(12):1465-73. doi: 10.1007/s10096-010-1049-1. Epub 2010 Sep 19.


Hyposplenic patients are at risk of overwhelming post-splenectomy infection (OPSI), which carries mortality of up to 70%. Therefore, preventive measures are warranted. However, patients with diminished splenic function are difficult to identify. In this review we discuss immunological, haematological and scintigraphic parameters that can be used to measure splenic function. IgM memory B cells are a potential parameter for assessing splenic function; however, more studies are necessary for its validation. Detection of Howell-Jolly bodies does not reflect splenic function accurately, whereas determining the percentage of pitted erythrocytes is a well-evaluated method and seems a good first-line investigation for assessing splenic function. When assessing spleen function, (99m)Tc-labelled, heat-altered, autologous erythrocyte scintigraphy with multimodality single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT)-CT technology is the best approach, as all facets of splenic function are evaluated. In conclusion, although scintigraphic methods are most reliable, they are not suitable for screening large populations. We therefore recommend using the percentage of pitted erythrocytes, albeit suboptimal, as a first-line investigation and subsequently confirming abnormal readings by means of scintigraphy. More studies evaluating the value of potentially new markers are needed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Erythrocyte Count*
  • Erythrocyte Inclusions
  • Erythrocytes, Abnormal*
  • Humans
  • Sodium Pertechnetate Tc 99m*
  • Spleen / diagnostic imaging
  • Spleen / immunology
  • Spleen / physiology*
  • Splenic Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Splenic Diseases / immunology
  • Splenic Diseases / physiopathology
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon


  • Sodium Pertechnetate Tc 99m