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December 1997

Splenic AbscessAnother Look at an Old Disease

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Surgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore, Md.

Arch Surg. 1997;132(12):1331-1336. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1997.01430360077014

Objective:  To study the changes in the incidence, causes, bacteriologic profile, and management of a splenic abscess.

Design:  Retrospective case study.

Setting:  Tertiary, university referral center.

Patients:  Thirty-nine patients with a splenic abscess.

Interventions:  None.

Main Outcome Measures:  Demographics, signs and symptoms, causes, risk factors, diagnostic methods, bacteriologic profile, treatment, and outcome.

Results:  Patients presented at a mean age of 43 years (range, 2-83 years), after a mean symptomatic period of 16 days, with fever (69%), abdominal pain (56%), nausea and vomiting (38%), and splenomegaly (31%). The majority of abscesses represented metastatic infection (n= 19), and 11 were secondary to immunosuppression. Twelve patients had human immunodeficiency virus disease and 9 used intravenous drugs. In patients who underwent computed tomography, all had abnormal scans (n=33), with a well-defined abscess(es) in 28. Nine abscesses were polymicrobial; monomicrobial isolates included gram-positive organisms (23%), gram-negative organisms (31%), fungi (23%), and mycobacteria (23%). Patients presenting before 1989 (1981-1988) (n=15) and those presenting after 1989 (1989-1996) (n=24) differed in risk factors (intravenous drug abuse, 0% vs 47% [P=.02]; hematologic malignancy, 43% vs 9% [P=.04]) and gram-positive isolates (18% vs 64%; P=.06). Patients underwent splenectomy (n= 18), open drainage (n=4), medical therapy (n= 10), or percutaneous drainage (n=5) with respective survival rates of 94%, 50%, 70%, and 100%.

Conclusions:  In 1996, splenic abscesses are increasingly common. Intravenous drug abuse and human immunodeficiency virus disease are significant risk factors, and the diagnosis should be considered in a patient with fever and abdominal pain who uses intravenous drugs. Antimicrobial agents should be broad since 36% of abscesses were polymicrobial, and should include coverage of gram-positive organisms.Arch Surg. 1997;132:1331-1336