Splenic injury caused by therapeutic irradiation

Am J Surg Pathol. 1981 Jun;5(4):325-31. doi: 10.1097/00000478-198106000-00002.


Splenic irradiation in the course of therapy for lymphoma can result in functional deficit, sometimes as severe as that caused by splenectomy, placing the patient at risk for fatal infection. We examined 33 spleens obtained at necropsy from patients irradiated for lymphomas (mainly Hodgkin's disease) and compared them with 18 nonirradiated spleens from similar patients. One to 8 years after a mean radiation dose of 3899 rads, fractionated over 5-6 weeks, most irradiated spleens were small (average weight 75 g) and had thick, wrinkled capsules, often with focal hemorrhage. There was collapse of the parenchyma, with close apposition of trabeculae and mild to severe diffuse fibrosis of the red pulp. Lymphocyte depletion was obvious in more than 50% of the specimens. The most consistent alteration was myointimal proliferation of arteries. Significant intimal thickening was seen only in the irradiated specimens. Similar myointimal changes were found in the veins of three cases. While none of these changes is specific, their combination appears to be characteristic of delayed radiation injury to the spleen.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Female
  • Hodgkin Disease / radiotherapy
  • Humans
  • Lymphoma / radiotherapy*
  • Male
  • Radiation Injuries / etiology
  • Radiation Injuries / pathology*
  • Spleen / pathology
  • Spleen / radiation effects*