purpose: To assess the efficacy of splenectomy in the treatment of refractory cytopenias associated with advanced chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). patients and methods: The histories of 57 patients with CLL who underwent splenectomy at the Mayo Clinic between 1975 and 1991 were retrospectively reviewed. Of the 57 patients, 50 underwent splenectomy for reasons directly related to their disease process such as cytopenias or symptomatic splenomegaly. The histories from these 50 patients were studied to assess the response to splenectomy and the operative morbidity and mortality. results: Ninety-four percent of patients were in Rai stage III or IV with extensive marrow infiltration, massive splenomegaly, and cytopenias refractory to chemotherapy. A positive response to splenectomy was defined at 3 months of follow-up as: (1) a hemoglobin level of 11 g/dL or greater in a patient with a preoperative value less than 11 g/dL; or (2) a platelet count of 100 × 103/mm3 or greater in a patient with a preoperative value less than 100 × 103/mm3. A positive response was achieved in 77% of patients with anemia, 70% of patients with thrombocytopenia, and 64% of patients with both anemia and thrombocytopenia. The response was sustained at 1 year of follow-up in 86%, 84%, and 85% of the patients, respectively. Postoperative transfusion requirements decreased correspondingly. The operative morbidity was 26%, and the operative mortality was 4%. The mean duration of hospitalization was 9.8 days (median: 9 days; range: 5 to 24 days). The actuarial median survival after splenectomy was 41 months in responders and 14 months in nonresponders. We found no preoperative parameters that were clearly predictive of a poor hematologic response. In particular, outcome was not affected by preoperative spleen size or the degree of marrow infiltration by CLL. All patients with symptomatic splenomegaly had an improved sense of well-being. conclusion: In this, the largest single institution study to date, we found splenectomy to be efficacious in providing durable remissions of refractory cytopenias and in relieving symptomatic splenomegaly in the majority of patients with CLL. The procedure is associated with a low perioperative mortality. Although the impact on survival is uncertain, the improved peripheral blood counts may allow the administration of adequate doses of myelosuppressive chemotherapy.
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