Splenic Infarction in Acute Infectious Mononucleosis

J Emerg Med. 2016 Jan;50(1):e11-3. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2015.09.019. Epub 2015 Oct 23.


Background: The evaluation of a febrile patient with acute abdominal pain represents a frequent yet possibly challenging situation in the emergency department (ED). Splenic infarction is an uncommon complication of infectious mononucleosis, and may have a wide range of clinical presentations, from dramatic to more subtle. Its pathogenesis is still incompletely understood, yet it may be associated with the occurrence of transient prothrombotic factors.

Case report: We report the case of a 14-year-old boy who presented with fever, sore throat, left upper quadrant abdominal pain, and splenomegaly, with no history of recent trauma. Laboratory tests revealed a markedly prolonged activated partial thromboplastin time and positive lupus anticoagulant. Abdominal ultrasonography showed several hypoechoic areas in the spleen consistent with multiple infarctions. Magnetic resonance imaging eventually confirmed the diagnosis. He was admitted for observation and supportive treatment, and was discharged in good condition after 7 days. WHY SHOULD AN EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN BE AWARE OF THIS?: Spontaneous splenic infarction should be considered in the differential list of patients presenting with left upper quadrant abdominal pain and features of infectious mononucleosis; the diagnosis, however, may not be straightforward, as clinical presentation may also be subtle, and abdominal ultrasonography, which is often used as a first-line imaging modality in pediatric EDs, has low sensitivity in this scenario and may easily miss it. Furthermore, although treatment is mainly supportive, close observation for possible complications is necessary.

Keywords: Epstein-Barr virus; infectious mononucleosis; lupus anticoagulant; splenic infarction; thrombosis.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Humans
  • Infectious Mononucleosis / complications*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Splenic Infarction / diagnostic imaging
  • Splenic Infarction / etiology*
  • Splenic Infarction / pathology
  • Ultrasonography