What are the manifestations of sickle cell disease (SCD) in the spleen?

Updated: May 12, 2021
  • Author: Joseph E Maakaron, MD; Chief Editor: Emmanuel C Besa, MD  more...
  • Print

The spleen enlarges in the latter part of the first year of life in children with SCD. Occasionally, the spleen undergoes a sudden very painful enlargement due to pooling of large numbers of sickled cells. This phenomenon is known as splenic sequestration crisis.

The spleen undergoes repeated infarction, aided by low pH and low oxygen tension in the sinusoids and splenic cords. Despite being enlarged, its function is impaired, as evidenced by its failure to take up technetium during nuclear scanning.

Over time, the spleen becomes fibrotic and shrinks. This is, in fact, an autosplenectomy. The nonfunctional spleen is a major contributor to the immune deficiency that exists in these individuals. Failure of opsonization and an inability to deal with infective encapsulated microorganisms, particularly Streptococcus pneumoniae, ensue, leading to an increased risk of sepsis in the future.

Did this answer your question?
Additional feedback? (Optional)
Thank you for your feedback!