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Asplenia (the congenital or acquired absence of the spleen) and hyposplenism (defective spleen function) are common causes of morbidity and mortality. The spleen is a secondary lymphoid organ that is responsible for the regulation of immune responses and blood filtration. Hence, asplenia or hyposplenism increases susceptibility to severe and invasive infections, especially those sustained by encapsulated bacteria (namely, Neisseria meningitidis, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae type b). Asplenia is predominantly due to splenectomy for either traumatic events or oncohaematological conditions. Hyposplenism can be caused by several conditions, including haematological, infectious, autoimmune and gastrointestinal disorders. Anatomical disruption of the spleen and depletion of immune cells, especially IgM memory B cells, seem to be predominantly responsible for the clinical manifestations. Early recognition of hyposplenism and proper management of asplenia are warranted to prevent overwhelming post-splenectomy infections through vaccination and antibiotic prophylaxis. Although recommendations are available, the implementation of vaccination strategies, including more effective and immunogenic vaccines, is needed. Additionally, screening programmes for early detection of hyposplenism in high-risk patients and improvement of patient education are warranted.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Rev Dis Primers

Publication Date