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May 1989

Splenectomy: The Treatment of Choice for Human Immunodeficiency Virus–Related Immune Thrombocytopenia?

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Surgery, New England Deaconess Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass.

Arch Surg. 1989;124(5):625-628. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1989.01410050115022

• Immune thrombocytopenia is a well-recognized part of the clinical spectrum of infection with the human immunodeficiency virus. From November 1985 to February 1988, 15 patients who were human immunodeficiency virus–positive underwent splenectomy for refractory immune thrombocytopenia. Eight patients had thrombocytopenia only, and 7 others were pancytopenic prior to splenectomy. Three of the 15 patients fulfilled criteria for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome before splenectomy, and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome developed in 5 patients during the follow-up period. The median duration of thrombocytopenia prior to surgical therapy was 6 months. A bone marrow biopsy specimen showed hypercellularity with increased megakaryocytes. All patients had a therapeutic response to splenectomy. Long-term remission from thrombocytopenia/pancytopenia was achieved in 14 of the 15 patients during a follow-up period of 2 to 21 months. Splenectomy can be accomplished with an acceptable morbidity. Pneumonia developed postoperatively in 2 patients, but they did not manifest the characteristic picture of overwhelming postsplenectomy sepsis. They had received vaccinations against encapsulated organisms preoperatively. We conclude that splenectomy provides a durable and lasting response for HIV-related thrombocytopenia. Vaccination for Streptococcus pneumonia and Haemophilus influenzae should be given prior to splenectomy although its efficacy is not clear in this group.

(Arch Surg. 1989;124:625-628)

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