Clinical events after surgical splenectomy in children with sickle cell anemia
Despite advances in immune prophylaxis, sepsis remains the most feared complication following splenectomy for acute splenic sequestration crisis (ASSC) in children with sickle cell anemia (SCA). We seek to investigate the true prevalence of sepsis and other complications of splenectomy in this patient population. We reviewed the records of children with SCA (HbSS) who underwent splenectomy for ASSC between 1993 and 2008 at a single institution. Fifty-eight patients (33 males) at a median age of 2 years at splenectomy were included with an average post-splenectomy follow-up of 6.4 years (range 6 months-14 years). Thirty-seven patients (64%) underwent laparoscopic splenectomy, and acute chest syndrome (ACS) was the most common post-operative complication (6.9%). There was no difference in the incidence of sepsis pre- and post-splenectomy. The occurrence of vaso-occlusive pain crises (VOC) and ACS was significantly higher after splenectomy. In addition, 14 patients (24%) developed stroke (n = 5) or an abnormal transcranial Doppler (TCD) (n = 9) after splenectomy. Our data suggest that splenectomy can be safely performed in children with SCA given a low risk of sepsis. However, the increased incidence of VOC, ACS, and stroke or abnormal TCDs after splenectomy remains a concern.