Although preservation of the spleen following abdominal trauma and spleen-preserving surgical procedures have become gold standards, about 22,000 splenectomies are still conducted annually in the USA. Infections, mostly by encapsulated organisms, are the most well-known complications following splenectomy. Recently, thrombosis and cancer have become recognized as potential adverse outcomes post-splenectomy. Among more than 4 million hospitalized USA veterans, we assessed incidence and mortality due to infections, thromboembolism, and cancer including 8,149 cancer-free veterans who underwent splenectomy with a follow-up of up to 27 years. Relative risk estimates and 95% confidence intervals were calculated using time-dependent Poisson regression methods for cohort data. Splenectomized patients had an increased risk of being hospitalized for pneumonia, meningitis, and septicemia (rate ratios=1.9-3.4); deep venous thrombosis and pulmonary embolism (rate ratios=2.2); certain solid tumors: buccal, esophagus, liver, colon, pancreas, lung, and prostate (rate ratios =1.3-1.9); and hematologic malignancies: non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma, multiple myeloma, acute myeloid leukemia, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, chronic myeloid leukemia, and any leukemia (rate ratios =1.8-6.0). They also had an increased risk of death due to pneumonia and septicemia (rate ratios =1.6-3.0); pulmonary embolism and coronary artery disease (rate ratios =1.4-4.5); any cancer: liver, pancreas, and lung cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma, and any leukemia (rate ratios =1.3-4.7). Many of the observed risks were increased more than 10 years after splenectomy. Our results underscore the importance of vaccination, surveillance, and thromboprophylaxis after splenectomy.
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