Incidence and risk factors for sepsis after childhood splenectomy

Document Type



General Surgery


Background: Children who have undergone splenectomy may develop impaired immunologic function and heightened risk of overwhelming postsplenectomy infection. We sought to define the long-term rate of and risk factors for postsplenectomy sepsis.
Methods: We leveraged the Military Health System Data Repository, a nationally representative claims database including >3 million children registered as dependents of members of the United States Armed Services (2005-2014). Inclusion criterion was splenectomy at age 18 years or prior. The primary outcome was hospitalization for sepsis.
Results: Among 195 children who underwent splenectomy, 7% (n = 13) were hospitalized with sepsis, with an incidence of 1.8 (95% CI = 1.0-3.1) events per 100 person-years. The median time to sepsis was 224 days (IQR = 109-606) and 38% (5/13) of events occurred within the first postsplenectomy year. The postsplenectomy mortality rate was 1% (n = 3). After adjusting for underlying diagnosis, older age at splenectomy (HR = 0.90 per year, 95% CI = 0.81-0.99) was associated with decreased hazard of sepsis.
Conclusions: In a contemporary national cohort, the prevalence of postsplenectomy sepsis was 7% (1.8 events per 100 person-years). Although most presented during the first year after splenectomy, many (62%) sepsis events occurred later, suggesting that postsplenectomy immunologic dysfunction persists beyond one year. The immunologic consequences of asplenia must continue to be acknowledged, as postsplenectomy sepsis remains a serious concern.
Type of study: Prognosis study.
Level of evidence: Level III.


This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University

Publication (Name of Journal)

Journal of pediatric surgery