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Pediatric Splenomegaly Workup

  • Author: Alexander Gozman, MD; Chief Editor: Robert J Arceci, MD, PhD  more...
Updated: Oct 05, 2015

Laboratory Studies

See the list below:

  • Splenomegaly is usually the result of systemic disease and not the result of primary splenic disease. Therefore, diagnostic studies are not directed at the spleen itself. Instead, they are oriented at diagnosing disease states that result in splenomegaly. The most useful initial laboratory tests include the CBC count with differential, peripheral blood smears, and liver function tests.[21]
  • The CBC count may be revealing.
    • Pancytopenia may be present because of bone marrow infiltration and hypersplenism.
    • The WBC count may reveal atypical lymphocytes (eg, neutropenia, or neutrophilia (eg, due to infection or leukemia).
    • Hemoglobin concentrations, RBC smears, and reticulocyte counts may reveal anemia, abnormal erythrocyte morphology, reticulocytosis (eg, due to hemolysis), or malarial parasites.
    • The platelet count may indicate thrombocytopenia due to decreased production (eg, due to bone marrow infiltration), increased destruction (eg, due to immunologic causes, drug reactions, or viral infections), or sequestration or hypersplenism.
  • Liver function tests may demonstrate the following abnormal values:
  • Obtain an antinuclear antibody titer to screen for systemic lupus erythematosus.
  • Measure immunoglobulin levels, neutrophil function, and T-cell subclasses (e.g., due to immunodeficiency).
  • Obtain viral-antibody titers to detect EBV, CMV, Toxoplasma gondii, and HIV.
  • Cultures may reveal bacterial, fungal, or other infections.
  • Examine the bone marrow to screen for leukemia, lymphoma, storage diseases, and disseminated fungal or mycobacteria infections.

Imaging Studies

See the list below:

  • Ultrasonography can confirm the presence of the enlarged spleen or space-occupying lesions (eg, cyst, abscess), provide accurate dimensions, and help in distinguishing between splenic enlargement and other causes of a left subchondral mass (eg, kidney). Confirming or excluding splenomegaly in patients with obesity, in whom palpation can be very challenging, is useful. Often, a single craniocaudal measurement is used to report spleen size; awareness of the normal values for age is important.[23] Collateral blood vessels develop secondary to portal hypertension, and reversal of portal vein blood flow direction may be visualized with Doppler ultrasonography.
  • CT scanning and MRI of the left upper quadrant can help in further clarifying abnormalities in size and shape and in defining parenchymal pathology. The "splenic index" is the product of the length, width, and thickness of the spleen and has limited value.[24, 25]
  • Radioisotopic scanning with a technetium-99m sulfur colloid (spleen scan) can provide functional information about the spleen that other radiologic studies do not provide.[7]

Histologic Findings

See the list below:

  • Biopsy of the spleen may be performed. The results are of limited value in common diagnoses, and the procedure is associated with a notable risk, particularly bleeding.
  • The diagnosis is occasionally recognized after splenectomy.
  • Examples of disease that might be examined with biopsy include infiltrative diseases, such as Gaucher disease, Niemann-Pick disease, amyloidosis, Tangier disease, and glycogen-storage diseases. Other diseases that may be diagnosed with splenic tissue include Langerhans cell histiocytosis, sarcoidosis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and Hodgkin disease. In Hodgkin disease, biopsy samples were often obtained in the past with staging laparotomy, but this is no longer performed because of improved imaging and systemic therapy.
Contributor Information and Disclosures

Alexander Gozman, MD Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Division of Hematology/Oncology, Albany Medical Center

Alexander Gozman, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Medical Association, American Society of Hematology, American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, Children's Oncology Group, American Society of Clinical Oncology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Richard H Sills, MD Professor of Pediatrics, Upstate Medical University

Richard H Sills, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Society of Hematology, American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Vikramjit S Kanwar, MBBS, MBA, MRCP(UK), FAAP Professor of Pediatrics, Albany Medical College; Chief, Division of Pediatric Hematology-Oncology, John and Anna Landis Endowed Chair for Pediatric Hematology-Oncology, Medical Director, Melodies Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders, Albany Medical Center

Vikramjit S Kanwar, MBBS, MBA, MRCP(UK), FAAP is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Pediatrics, American Society of Hematology, American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, Children's Oncology Group, International Society of Pediatric Oncology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Mary L Windle, PharmD Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

James L Harper, MD Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Division of Hematology/Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplantation, Associate Chairman for Education, Department of Pediatrics, University of Nebraska Medical Center; Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Creighton University School of Medicine; Director, Continuing Medical Education, Children's Memorial Hospital; Pediatric Director, Nebraska Regional Hemophilia Treatment Center

James L Harper, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, American Federation for Clinical Research, Council on Medical Student Education in Pediatrics, Hemophilia and Thrombosis Research Society, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association for Cancer Research, American Society of Hematology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Robert J Arceci, MD, PhD Director, Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, Department of Hematology/Oncology, Co-Director of the Ron Matricaria Institute of Molecular Medicine, Phoenix Children’s Hospital; Editor-in-Chief, Pediatric Blood and Cancer; Professor, Department of Child Health, University of Arizona College of Medicine

Robert J Arceci, MD, PhD is a member of the following medical societies: American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Association for Cancer Research, American Pediatric Society, American Society of Hematology, American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

J Martin Johnston, MD Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Mercer University School of Medicine; Director of Hematology/Oncology, The Children's Hospital at Memorial University Medical Center; Consulting Oncologist/Hematologist, St Damien's Pediatric Hospital

J Martin Johnston, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Pediatrics, American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, International Society of Paediatric Oncology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


The authors and editors of Medscape Reference gratefully acknowledge the contributions of previous authors Wayne Hioe, MD, and Mundeep K Kainth, DO, to the development and writing of this article.

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