Complications in the adult asplenic patient: A review for the emergency clinician

Brit Long, Alex Koyfman, Michael Gottlieb

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: The spleen performs several important physiologic functions. However, patients can have functional asplenia or have their spleen removed for a number of reasons, which can put them at risk for several dangerous complications. Objective: This narrative review provides a focused evaluation of adult asplenic patients and complications in the emergency departing setting. Discussion: The spleen plays integral roles in the immune and reticuloendothelial systems and also modulates the inflammatory and coagulation cascades. Asplenia refers to the anatomic or physiologic loss of splenic function, which may be due to trauma, immunological, hematological, or oncological etiologies. Asplenic patients are at risk for several complications including infection, arterial and venous thrombosis, and pulmonary hypertension. Fever in an asplenic patient and overwhelming post-splenectomy infection (OPSI) are medical emergencies with a high mortality and require rapid evaluation and management with broad-spectrum antibiotics. Asplenic patients are at increased risk of arterial thrombosis, such as coronary artery disease, and venous thrombosis including deep venous thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, and splenic and portal vein thrombosis. Management of venous thrombosis includes anticoagulation. Pulmonary hypertension with associated right ventricular dysfunction may also occur in asplenia. These patients require hemodynamic stabilization with an emphasis on inciting causes and treatment of the pulmonary hypertension. Conclusions: The spleen is an integral organ involved in several physiologic functions. Asplenia, or absence of spleen function, is associated with severe complications. Knowledge of these complications can improve the care of these patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)452-457
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Emergency Medicine
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • Asplenia
  • Hyposplenism
  • Infection
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Spleen
  • Splenectomy
  • Thrombosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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