Splenic Abscess Associated with Endocarditis

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Refractory or recurrent sepsis in patients with endocarditis may be from splenic abscess. The purpose of this review is to assess this relationship.


Of 564 patients treated for documented endocarditis between 1970 and 1990, splenic abscesses developed in 27 patients. The mean age of the 18 men and nine women was 37 years. Etiologic factors included street drugs, dental abscess, and rheumatic fever. Symptoms included fever, myalgia, chills, and dyspnea; the prodrome averaged 2 weeks. Typical signs were heart murmur, left lower-lobe infiltrate, and leukocytosis. Splenomegaly was found in three patients. All patients had valve lesions, which involved the aortic valve alone in 10 patients, the mitral valve alone in eight patients, and multiple valves in nine patients.


A splenic defect on computed axial tomographic scan was diagnosed correctly as an abscess in 10 patients, was indeterminant in three patients, and was incorrectly called an infarct in four patients. Thirteen patients died. All 10 patients treated without splenectomy died, including five patients who underwent valvular replacement. In contrast, only three of 17 patients treated by splenectomy with (11 patients) or without (six patients) valvular surgery died.


Splenic abscess often accompanies endocarditis. The diagnosis is suspected by refractory fever and confirmed by abdominal computed axial tomography scan. Splenectomy is warranted before or after valvular surgery, depending on the patient's clinical response to antibiotics.

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