Asplenia refers to the absence of normal spleen function and is associated with some serious infection risks. Hyposplenism is used to describe reduced ('hypo-') splenic functioning, but not as severely affected as with asplenism.
Functional asplenia occurs when splenic tissue is present but does not work well (e.g. sickle-cell disease, polysplenia) -such patients are managed as if asplenic-, while in anatomic asplenia, the spleen itself is absent.
Celiac disease: unknown physiopathology. In a 1970 study, it was the second most found -after surgical splenectomy- cause of hyposplenism-linked RBC abnomalies.
Functional asplenia can occur when patients with metabolic or haematological disorders have their splenic tissue organisation altered. This can lead to results similar to those seen in patients who have undergone a splenectomy e.g. becoming infected with encapsulated bacteria such as Haemophilus influenzae, Streptococcus pneumoniae and Neisseria meningitidis. Patients who have some form of asplenia have an increased susceptibility to these encapsulated bacterial infections mainly because they lack IgM memory B cells and their non-adherence to polysaccharide vaccines. Furthermore there is a deficiency of other splenic cells e.g. splenic macrophages. This combined with the lack of B cells can provide an environment favourable for the development of bacterial infections.
Partial splenectomy and preservation of splenic function
In an effort to preserve some of the spleen's protective roles, attempts are now often made to preserve a small part of the spleen when performing either surgical subtotal (partial) splenectomy, or partial splenic embolization.
This may be particularly important in poorer countries where protective measures for patients with asplenia are not available.
However, it has been advised that preoperative vaccination is advisable until the remnant splenic tissue can reestablish its function.
The increased risk of infection is due to inability to clear opsonised bacteria from circulating blood. There is also a deficiency of T-cell independent antibodies, such as those reactive to the polysaccharide capsule of Streptococcus pneumoniae.
The risk to asplenic patients has been expressed as equivalent to an adult dying in a road traffic accident (in every 100 people without spleens, 1 to 5 would develop a severe infection per decade) (reference UK Splenectomy Trust Advice)—hence sensible precautions are advisable.Increased platelet counts can be seen in individuals without a functioning spleen.
Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine, especially if not received in childhood. For adults who have not been previously vaccinated, two doses given two months apart was advised in the new 2006 UK vaccination guidelines (in the UK may be given as a combined Hib/MenC vaccine).
Influenza vaccine, every winter, to help prevent getting secondary bacterial infection.
In addition to the normal immunizations advised for the countries to be visited, Group A meningococcus should be included if visiting countries of particular risk (e.g. sub-saharan Africa). The non-conjugated Meningitis A and C vaccines usually used for this purpose give only 3 years coverage and provide less-effective long-term cover for Meningitis C than the conjugated form already mentioned.
Those lacking a functional spleen are at higher risk of contracting malaria, and succumbing to its effects. Travel to malarial areas will carry greater risks and is best avoided. Travellers should take the most appropriate anti-malarial prophylaxis medication and be extra vigilant over measures to prevent mosquito bites.
The pneumococcal vaccinations may not cover some of the other strains of pneumococcal bacteria present in other countries. Likewise their antibiotic resistance may also vary, requiring a different choice of stand-by antibiotic.
Surgical and dental procedures - Antibiotic prophylaxis may be required before certain surgical or dental procedures.
Tick bites - Babesiosis is a rare tickborne infection. Patients should check themselves or have themselves inspected for tick bites if they are in an at-risk situation. Presentation with fever, fatigue, and haemolytic anaemia requires diagnostic confirmation by identifying the parasites within red blood cells on blood film and by specific serology. Quinine (with or without clindamycin) is usually an effective treatment.
Alert warning - People without a working spleen can carry a card, or wear a special bracelet or necklet which says that they do not have a working spleen. This would alert a healthcare professional to take rapid action if they become are seriously ill and cannot notify them of their condition.
^Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man. OMIM entry 208530: Right atrial isomerism; RAI. Johns Hopkins University. 
^Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man. OMIM entry 271400: Asplenia, isolated congenital; ICAS. Johns Hopkins University. [permanent dead link]
^Bader-Meunier B, Gauthier F, Archambaud F, et al. (2001). "Long-term evaluation of the beneficial effect of subtotal splenectomy for management of hereditary spherocytosis". Blood. 97 (2): 399–403. doi:10.1182/blood.V97.2.399. PMID11154215.
^Kasper, D. et al (2015) Harrison's principles of internal medicine. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education
^"Splenectomy and Infection"(PDF). Splenectomy Trust. March 2002. Archived from the original(PDF) on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2006-12-12. - reprint from Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust