AIMS--To investigate the incidence of functional hyposplenism in a group of patients who had undergone allogeneic bone marrow transplantation (BMT). METHODS--Splenic function was assessed by counting the number of gluteraldehyde fixed red blood cells containing pits or indentations as examined by interference phase microscopy. Normal values are < 2% whereas splenectomy patients have values of 25 to 40%. RESULTS--Twenty eight BMT recipients (17 men, 11 women) were studied at varying periods post-transplant and the results compared with 20 healthy volunteers and 10 patients who had undergone splenectomy or had splenic atrophy because of haematological conditions. Of the 28 BMT recipients, one had undergone a prior splenectomy; of the remaining 27 patients, four (15%) had evidence of functional hyposplenism with between 5.0 and 34.0% pitted cells. Of these four patients, one had active extensive chronic graft versus host disease (GvHD) which has been previously reported to be associated with functional hyposplenism following transplantation. Only one of the four patients had peripheral blood red cell changes typical of hyposplenism. CONCLUSION--These results confirm that extensive chronic GvHD is associated with hyposplenism. Intermediate degrees of functional hyposplenism may also occur following BMT in the absence of chronic GvHD and in the absence of haematological features of hyposplenism on routine blood films. This may be of significance in mediating the susceptibility to infection with encapsulating bacteria seen following allogeneic BMT.
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