Removal of the spleen presents a lifelong risk of infection, in particular the syndrome of overwhelming postsplenectomy sepsis. Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae and Neisseria meningitides are the most common organisms involved, but malaria, babesiosis and DF-2 also create a problem. Immunisation with pneumococcal vaccine, H. influenzae type b vaccine, influenza vaccine and, if in a high risk area, meningococcal vaccine is recommended. Lifelong Phenoxymethylpenicillin 250mg twice daily is also advised, especially in high risk groups such as children and immunocompromised patients. If patients are unwilling to take medicine lifelong, or are unlikely to comply, an antibiotic supply should be made available at all times and administration should commence at the first sign of illness.
It is vital that patients who have had a splenectomy are properly informed of the hazards and the appropriate measures to be taken, including the risks of malaria and other less common infections.
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