LFHC Performs 1st Splenectomy for Thalassemia Patient

When LFHC first opened its doors in 2015, one of its first patients was a 7-year-old boy named Bounsaweng Bouadichith, who was diagnosed with thalassemia when he was an infant.

He arrived weak and pale and LFHC doctors promptly started treating him. During the past four years, he has had frequent medical appointments and is one of the Thalassemia Clinic patients who received blood transfusions once or twice a month.

Bounsaweng was also diagnosed with an enlarged spleen. One of the functions of the spleen is to filter old or damaged red blood cells. Thalassemia destroys a large number of red blood cells and as they are filtered by the spleen, it becomes enlarged and has to work harder.

After extensive planning by a multidisciplinary team, Bounsaweng was wheeled into the Operating Theater on Feb. 20 and underwent the first elective splenectomy for a thalassemia patient at LFHC. Volunteer Dr. Mark Saxton and Lao surgeon Dr. Kuaneng Lao performed the procedure, along with LFHC’s Operating Theater team.

The Thalassemia Clinic team of doctors and nurses prepared Bounsaweng and his family during the months leading up to the surgery. Child Life therapist Kongmeng Sialee helped the family understand the procedure’s risks and benefits. The Laboratory team was also essential in preparing the Luang Prabang Provincial Blood Bank to ensure that a large supply of cross-matched blood would be available for transfusions during and after surgery.

Splenectomy for Thalassemia patients increases life expectancy and decreases blood transfusion requirements, but comes at a high risk for surgical complications and infections after surgery.

Bounsaweng remained at LFHC for nearly a month after his surgery. His recovery was complicated by inflammation in his lung due to pancreatic juices leaking out during surgery, but he eventually responded well and was able to return home feeling much better.

He and his family have come for follow-up appointments in the Thalassemia Clinic and he has not required a transfusion since his splenectomy. His family reports he has much more energy and is able to go back to school and thrive as a happy young man. The LFHC team is very happy to see how much progress he has made.