Chelation therapy in β-thalassemia major. III. The role of splenectomy in achieving iron balance
Transfusion requirements for 1978 were compiled for 79 patients with thalassemia major (ages 1 to 29 years) who were maintained at hemoglobin concentrations of greater than 10 gm/dl. In 46 patients with intact spleens, the mean transfusion requirement was 258 ml/kg/year, and there was a clear increase with age. The transfusion history prior to 1978 had no influence on the increase of transfusion requirement with age. In contrast, in 33 splenectomized patients, the mean transfusion requirement was 203 ml/kg/year and it did not increase with age. Urinary iron excretion in response to deferoxamine increased with age, with no obvious difference between splenectomized and nonsplenectomized patients. The ability to achieve iron balance with a daily dose of 20 mg/kg of deferoxamine was a function of the transfusion requirement splenectomized patients with lower blood requirements generally achieved negative iron balance, whereas nonsplenectomized patients did not. We conclude that the spleen should be removed when the transfusion requirement exceeds 250 ml/kg/year, which usually occurs between 6 and 8 years of age. In young patients with intact spleens, a higher dose of deferoxamine may be use in order to prevent hemosiderosis.