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Overwhelming postsplenectomy infection syndrome in adults - a clinically preventable disease.

Overwhelming postsplenectomy infection (OPSI) syndrome is a rare condition, but is associated with high mortality. However, recognition and clinical management of OPSI is not well established. The prevalence of splenectomy increased recently because it was a clinically effective treatment for hepatitis C virus-associated thrombocytopenia before the introduction of the interferon/ribavirin combination therapy. We reviewed the literature characterizing the clinicopathological features of OPSI and assessed the most effective and feasible administration of the condition. A Medline search was performed using the keywords 'overwhelming', 'postsplenectomy infection', 'postsplenectomy sepsis', 'chronic liver disease', and/or 'splenectomy'. Additional articles were obtained from references within the papers identified by the Medline search. Durations between splenectomy and onset of OPSI ranged from less than 1 wk to more than 20 years. Autopsy showed that many patients with OPSI also had Waterhouse-Friderichsen syndrome. Although the mortality rate from OPSI has been reduced by appropriate vaccination and education, the precise pathogenesis and a suitable therapeutic strategy remain to be elucidated. Protein energy malnutrition (PEM) is commonly observed in cirrhotic patients. Since the immune response in patients with PEM is compromised, a more careful management for OPSI should therefore be applied for cirrhotic patients after splenectomy. In addition, strict long-term follow up of OPSI patients including informed consent will lead to a better prognosis.

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