• immune thrombocytopenic purpura;
  • splenectomy.

Of 148 elective splenectomies performed in auckland during 1979-s7, 48 were performed as therapy for immune thrombocytopenic purpura (itp). In all cases medical therapy had either failed to maintain their platelet count (36 patients), or side-effects of medical treatment had made continuation unacceptable (12 patients).

The mean age of the group was 31 years and there were 15 males and 33 females. Thirty-four of 48 patients (71%) had a favourable response to splenectomy: platelet count was maintained above 150 × 109/1 and medical therapy was no longer required.

There was no operative or inhospital mortality. Seven patienls experienced postoperative complications (mainly infections) of which none were life-threatening.

There was no difference in response between males and females (67% and 73% response rate, respectively), and the response rates of europeans and non-europeans were similar (71% and 69%, respectively). By contrast, the average age of the responders ((29 years) was almost 10 years younger than the non-responders (38 years).

It is concluded that the use of splenectomy as therapy for patienls with itp. Who have either failed to respond to medical management or for various reasons cannot tolerate the complications associated with steroid therapy, is a safe procedure which in the present series was associated with no operative mortality and an acceptably low rale of morbidity. Younger itp patients (< 30 years) have a better chance of responding favourably to splenectomy than do older patienls (> 40 years).