Big spleens and hypersplenism: Fix it or forget it?

Thomas D. Boyer, Shahid Habib

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Hypersplenism is a common manifestation of portal hypertension in the cirrhotic. More than half of cirrhotics will have low platelet counts, but neutropenia is much less common. Despite being common in the cirrhotic population, the presence of hypersplenism is of little clinical consequence. The presence of hypersplenism suggests more advanced liver disease and an increase in risk of complications, but there is no data showing that correcting the hypersplenism improves patient survival. In most series, the most common indications for treating the hypersplenism is to increase platelet and white blood cell counts to allow for use of drugs that suppress the bone marrow such as interferon alpha and chemotherapeutic agents. There are several approaches used to treat hypersplenism. Portosystemic shunts are of questionable benefit. Splenectomy, either open or laparoscopically, is the most effective but is associated with a significant risk of portal vein thrombosis. Partial splenic artery embolization and radiofrequency ablation are effective methods for treating hypersplenism, but counts tend to fall back to baseline long-term. Pharmacological agents are also effective in increasing platelet counts. Development of direct acting antivirals against hepatitis C will eliminate the most common indication for treatment. We lack controlled trials designed to determine if treating the hypersplenism has benefits other than raising the platelet and white blood cell counts. In the absence of such studies, hypersplenism in most patients should be considered a laboratory abnormality and not treated, in other words forget it.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1492-1498
Number of pages7
JournalLiver International
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2015


  • Hypersplenism
  • Splenectomy
  • Splenomegaly

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology


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