Spleen volume reduction followed by re-expansion has been described in acute ischemic stroke in both animal and human studies. Splenic contraction might be partially due to sympathetic hyperactivity and might be accompanied by release of splenocytes in the peripheral circulation, leading to immunodepression.
To investigate whether spleen volume changes in the first week after stroke are associated with post-stroke infections, changes in lymphocytes count and autonomic dysfunction.
In patients with acute ischemic stroke, spleen sizes were calculated from abdominal CT images on day one and day seven. Spleen size reduction was defined as > 10% spleen size reduction between day one and day seven. Post stroke infections were diagnosed during the first seven days after stroke onset using the modified criteria of the US Center of Disease Control and Prevention. We assessed the time course of leukocyte subsets and analysed pulse rate variability (PRV) indices.
Post-stroke infections occurred in six out of 11 patients (55%) with spleen size reduction versus in five out of 27 patients (19%) without spleen size reduction (p = 0,047). Spleen size reduction was associated with a drop in lymphocytes and several lymphocyte subsets from admission to day one, and a higher NIHSS at admission and at day three (p = 0,028 and p = 0,006 respectively). No correlations could be found between spleen volume change and PRV parameters.
Post-stroke infections and a drop in lymphocytes and several lymphocyte subsets are associated with spleen volume reduction in acute ischemic stroke.