What vaccines do I need if I don’t have a spleen?

Sometimes people lose their spleens due to accidents or sports injuries or illness, and they wonder what the spleen actually does. The spleen is the largest lymph organ in your body and it contains many lymph nodes. One of its jobs is to filter bacteria out of your blood when you are sick, to prevent infections from spreading throughout your body quickly. When the spleen is gone, infections can become serious very rapidly, so it is important to treat them as soon as possible. People without spleens should seek medical care earlier than other people.  Whenever they undergo invasive procedures, asplenic people should be sure to take prophylactic antibiotics. These include dental procedures as well as surgeries. If they are bitten by dogs or ticks, asplenic people should also have antibiotics to clear the bacteria they likely picked up.  As soon as they get a fever, they should call their doctor. They should receive antibiotics even when it’s not certain that their infections are bacterial, because of the risk of sepsis, or blood poisoning, from infections that ARE bacterial. This risk is 350 times greater for them than it is for normal people. The riskiest infections come from what are called polysaccharide encapsulated bacteria, like Streptococcus, Pneumococcus, Haemophilus and Meningococcus organisms.  Vaccines for several of these types of bacteria are available and should be given to these folks. They should receive a flu shot every year, because right after the flu, many people get secondary bacterial infections with the bacteria mentioned above.

So, to summarize the answer to the question: you should get a Pneumovax vaccination, a meningococcus vaccine, a flu shot and a Haemophilus influenzae B vaccine (this may require more than one dose) if you haven’t already had these. Check with your own doctor about what you have had and what you might need for the latest information on this topic!