Five asplenic persons with no other detectable underlying diseases had overwhelming pneumococcemia. Four of the patients had undergone splenectomy for trauma, and the fifth had asplenia as an isolated congenital abnormality. Including the cases presented here, there are now at least 26 reported instances of fatal or life-threatening pneumococcal infections in otherwise-normal asplenic patients. Thus, splenectomy per se is associated with an increased risk of overwhelming pneumococcemia. Although the magnitude of the risk is low, mortality associated with these infections is high. Analysis of the clinical data strongly suggests that undiagnosed febrile episodes in asplenic persons should be treated promptly with antibiotics while awaiting culture results. This strategy should be adopted regardless of the age of the patient or his general state of health. The observation that a limited number of pneumococcal serotypes, particularly type XII, appear to predominate in these cases suggests that pneumococcal vaccine might be highly efficacious in preventing overwhelming post-splenectomy pneumococcal infections in otherwise-normal hosts.
(Arch Intern Med 137:1526-1530, 1977)