Hereditary Spherocytosis Treatment Options
Because the spleen is the place where the red blood cells get destroyed, we can cure hereditary spherocytosis by doing surgery to take out the spleen. This is called a splenectomy.
Without a spleen a child has a small but definite lifelong increase in the risk of a severe blood infection. The spleen helps your child's immune system, so it's especially important to keep immunizations up to date after a splenectomy.
A major service that we provide at Seattle Children's Hospital is ongoing check-ups to tell whether and when your child may need her spleen taken out.
Doctors try to delay this surgery until children reach the age of 5 or 6. In most cases, our surgeons can do laparascopic surgery, which is done through a set of small incisions with the aid of a tiny camera, rather than through a large incision.
Some children with hereditary spherocytosis never need their spleen removed.
Until or unless your child has her spleen removed, there are other treatments that may help lessen the effects of this disease. We perform each of these at Children's Hospital.
- Some children with hereditary spherocytosis need blood transfusions. We offer these at the hospital main campus in Seattle. Many children with spherocytosis never need a transfusion, or need one only if they get a certain virus (Parvovirus) that keeps their body from making red blood cells temporarily.
- If your newborn with spherocytosis has severe jaundice, the baby will need treatment to reduce this and prevent brain damage from high levels of bilirubin. The usual treatment is to use light therapy, or phototherapy, to clear up jaundice. This involves placing the baby under blue lights. If this isn't enough, doctors can do an exchange transfusion, which means replacing the baby's blood with donor blood.
- Folic acid supplements may help your child's body produce the needed red blood cells. Ask your child's doctor whether to use a supplement and, if so, how much to give each day. (After spleen removal, folic acid supplements may still help your child.)
- Children with spherocytosis who get gallstones may need their gallbladder removed.