Partial splenectomy for massive splenomegaly secondary

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Postgrad Med J (1991) 67, 1072 - 1074
i) The Fellowship of Postgraduate Medicine, 1991
Clinical Reports
Partial splenectomy for massive splenomegaly secondary
to Gaucher's disease
W.E.G. Thomas and D.A. Winfield
Departments oJ Surgery and Haematology, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Glossop Road, Sheffield S10 2JF, UK
A 16 year old girl with Type 1 Gaucher's disease presented with massive splenomegaly,
hypersplenism and abdominal discomfort. Traditionally hypersplenism has been treated with splenectomy, but this results in a high incidence of overwhelming sepsis and accelerated sphingolipid deposition in
both liver and bone. A 90% partial splenectomy was therefore performed leaving a fully vascularized
inferior segment of the spleen and resecting 5.8 kg of splenic tissue. The patient made an uneventful
recovery with a marked improvement in her haematological parameters and general condition.
Gaucher's disease is an autosomal recessive genetic
disorder resulting in a deficiency of B-glucocerebrosidase' which leads to an accumulation of
glucocerebroside in the reticuloendothelial system
and bone marrow. The principal clinical presentations of patients with Gaucher's disease are
hepatosplenomegaly and bone pain. Massive
splenomegaly with hypersplenism is therefore a
common presentation in Type 1 Gaucher's disease
(adult form) and in the past this has been treated by
splenectomy.2'3 However, progressive hepatomegaly and accelerated bone disease have been
reported after this procedure,2'3 as have overwhelming septic complications that can be fatal.4 These
results have suggested that patients with massive
splenomegaly secondary to Gaucher's disease may
benefit from a partial splenectomy. A partial
splenectomy procedure was first described in 1869,5
and subsequently has been utilized following
trauma,6-8 for splenic cysts9"'0 and haematological
disorders.1-13 Partial splenectomy for Gaucher's
disease has been reported in Israel'4"5 and the
USA,'6"17 but we now report the first documented
case in the British literature in one of the largest
spleens in which this procedure has been attempted.
Patient and methods
A 16 year old female weighing 35 kg presented with
progressive symptoms of lethargy, abdominal pain
Correspondence: W.E.G. Thomas, F.R.C.S., M.S.
Accepted: 21 May 1991
and amenorrhoea and was found to have massive
splenomegaly to the level of her pelvis (Figure 1).
Four years previously she had been diagnosed as
having aseptic femoral head necrosis. Peripheral
blood results were haemoglobin 7.3 g/dl, white
count 2.7 x 109/l and platelets 44 x 109/l. Bone
marrow trephine biopsy showed extensive infiltration by Gaucher's cells and the diagnosis of Type 1
Gaucher's disease was confirmed by reduced
plasma B-glucosidase activity and increased levels
of acid phosphatase and angiotensin converting
enzyme. X-rays of her skeleton showed signs of old
avascular necrosis of the right femoral head
(Figure 2) and abnormal trabecular pattern of both
proximal femora.
One possible treatment option was allogeneic
bone marrow transplantation but this could not be
undertaken since her unaffected sister was HLA
incompatible. Because of symptoms associated
with her large spleen, it was decided to proceed to
partial splenectomy to try and avoid rapid
deterioration of her skeletal problems.
Pre-operatively the patient received pneumococcal vaccine, a transfusion of platelets and
cefuroxime prophylaxis. Laparotomy revealed
massive splenomegaly, no splenunculus and
moderate hepatomegaly. The initial operative
manoeuvre was to open the lesser sac and place a
rubber sling around the splenic artery as it ran
along the upper surface of the pancreas. The spleen
was then mobilized dividing the spleno-renal ligament and omental and diaphragmatic attachments.
The short gastric vessels were divided and the
spleen delivered into the wound. Hilar dissection
then started at the upper pole, ligating and dividing
all vessels except for the most inferior artery and
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Figure 3 The spared inferior artery and vein to the lower
pole ofthe spleen being elevated by the artery clip, and the
line of demarcation (arrowed).
Massive splenomegaly.
wrapped in a mesh of absorbable polyglycolic acid
with a layer of the haemostatic substance spongistan over the cut surface. The spleen was then
sutured to the diaphragm in 3 sites using the mesh
to prevent torsion.
The patient made an uneventful recovery with
minimal drainage. She was discharged on the tenth
day following surgery.
At follow-up the patient has made excellent
progress. Her haemoglobin, platelets and white cell
count 6 months later were 12.9 g/dl, 130 x 109/l
and 8.2 x 109/l respectively and her weight 50 kg.
Her periods are regular and normal. Clinical
examination and CT scan give no indication of
progressive enlargement of the remnant at 7
months and an isotope scan shows normal splenic
Figure 2 Right sided aseptic femoral head necrosis
secondary to Gaucher's disease.
vein supplying the lower pole of the spleen (Figure
3). The devascularized portion of the spleen
became less tense and a clear line of demarcation
was seen. The spleen was divided along the demarcation line and a 90% splenectomy performned
resecting 5.8 kg of spleen (14% of body weight:
normal splenic/body weight ratio 0.3%). Pressure
was applied to the cut surface and the spleen was
The management of patients with massive
splenomegaly and hypersplenism secondary to
Type I Gaucher's disease has been unsatisfactory.
In the past the only option was to perform a
splenectomy, but this was often accompanied by a
high incidence of sepsis and even death.4 The
immune system is further embarrassed in these
patients by the infiltration of the remaining
reticuloendothelial system by the deposition of the
Gaucher cells, placing these patients at even greater
risk of sepsis following splenectomy than those
undergoing such surgery for trauma, immune
thrombocytopenic purpura or hereditary
spherocytosis. Furthermore, after splenectomy in
patients with Gaucher's disease, there is often a
progression in the hepatomegaly and in bone
disease; in this patient, who was already having
trouble with her right hip due to aseptic femoral
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head necrosis, this would have been disastrous.
Other treatment options were therefore considered.
Allogeneic bone marrow transplantation could
not be undertaken since her unaffected sister was
HLA incompatible. However, even if feasible, this
would not have addressed the issue of her
abdominal pain and difficulties in moving due to
the splenic bulk. Arterial embolization can be
considered"8 but has to be done in stages, may be
accompanied by a high fever and marked discomfort due to splenic infarction and does nothing
initially for the bulk of the spleen.'7
Partial splenectomy in animals has been shown
to inflict far less of an onslaught on the immune
system than total splenectomy,'9 and in Gaucher's
disease would decrease the bulk without increasing
significantly the hepatomegaly or bone disease.
The actual procedure of partial splenectomy for
such a vast spleen is a daunting prospect. However,
with meticulous surgical technique, it is a feasible
and safe procedure. In this patient no postoperative complications occurred, but in the cases
reported from Israel and the USA a few complications have been reported including torsion of the
splenic remnant,'4 haemorrhage, 14 necrosis of the
remnant'5 and left-sided pleural effusion.'7
Partial splenectomy in these patients undoubtedly
improves the state of hypersplenism, and is also
accompanied by an increase in body weight, muscle
bulk and tone of abdominal musculature.'5 It is of
interest to note that our patient commenced her
menses within 2 months of surgery and one similar
case has also been previously reported in which a 20
year old female commenced having normal periods
within 2 months of partial splenectomy,'7 while in
children it appears to result in an improvement in
the growth curve.'5
The rate at which the remnant may enlarge is
unknown and as yet this procedure has not been
attended by a long enough follow-up adequately to
assess the ultimate fate of the remaining spleen.
Follow-up scans of up to 1 year have shown some
slight increase in remnant size but nothing of
clinical significance.'6 It has been the objective of
other workers to leave a remnant roughly the size
of a normal spleen, but in this case the enormous
size of the spleen (5.8 kg) dictated that the size of
the remnant depended on the vascular supply.
Thus the remnant was that part of the spleen that
was adequately vascularized on only a single vessel.
To have removed more would have run this risk of
potential haemorrhagic complications.
This case therefore demonstrates that a partial
splenectomy is a feasible possibility even with
enormous spleens. The role of this procedure in
Gaucher's disease remains to be proven, but thus
far looks most encouraging.
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glucocerebrosides. Evidence of an enzymatic deficiency in
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2. Salky, B., Kreel, I., Gelernt, I. et al. Splenectomy for
Gaucher's disease. Ann Surg 1979, 190: 592-594.
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splenectomy in Gaucher's disease. Arch Surg 1983, 118:
4. Walker, W. Splenectomy in childhood: a review in England
and Wales 1960-1964. Br J Surg 1976, 63: 36-43.
5. Pean, J. Ovariotomie et splenotomie, 2nd ed. Germer-Bailliere,
Paris, 1869, pp. 129-138.
6. Buntain, W.L. & Lynn, H.B. Splenectomy: changing concepts for the traumatised spleen. Surgery 1979, 86: 748-759.
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Partial splenectomy for
massive splenomegaly
secondary to Gaucher's
W. E. Thomas and D. A. Winfield
Postgrad Med J 1991 67: 1072-1074
doi: 10.1136/pgmj.67.794.1072
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