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Journal of the Anatomical Society of India

Avascular Zone in the Human Spleen - A Sex Difference

Author(s): *Chakravarty, S.; Shamal, S.; Pandey, S.K.

Vol. 52, No. 2 (2003-07 - 2003-12)

Department of Anatomy, Institute of Medical Sciences, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, INDIA *Department of Anatomy1, B.P. Koirala Institute of Health Sciences, Dharan, NEPAL


The splenic avascular arterial pattern was studied in 162 human spleen of both sex by angiographic method. The segmental branches travelled perpendicular to the long axis of the spleen and terminated in the inter segmental and peripheral region as end arteries. The splenic terminal branches showed specific area of distribution. The lobar branches formed the arterial arcades in the intrahilar region. The intersegmental avascular zones were clearly demarcated in the female. The ligated splenic terminal branch showed the avascular area without any established arterial communication from the surroundings. The knowledge of the intersegmental avascular zone in both sexes is necessary for safe surgical procedures.

Key words: Spleen, segmental branches, intersegmental ramification, avascular zone,


The spleen shows segmentation due to fibrous septae (Kyber, 1870). Partial splenectomy was first performed in 19th century and their post operative sequel and complications were observed (Greco & Alvarez, 1981). Thus the application of conservative surgery of partial splenectomy became a world wide practice. Gupta et al (1976) reported the avascular plane and the segmental patten of the spleen. The application of the conservative splenic surgery, require a detailed knowledge of the avascular plane of the spleen and its segmental pattern in both sexes (Redmond et al, 1989) Kehila and Abderrahim (1993) reported the practice of the partial splenectomy in the case of major trauma to perform subtotal splenectomy after the splenic vessel ligation. The present study showed the intrasplenic ramification of the interlobar and intersegmental branches of the terminal splenic artery and demarcated the avascular zones in the human spleen of male and female.

Material and Methods:

Human spleen were collected from 46 cadavers of the department of Anatomy and 116 dead bodies from the Department of Forensic Medicine, Institute of Medical Sciences, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi. The tail of the pancreas was first identified and the splenic artery was cut 5cm proximal to the hilum of the spleen in 90 male and 72 female dead bodies. The collected spleen were washed with heparinised saline till the splenic vein showed the clear fluid coming out of it. Barium sulphate solution was injected into the splenic artery with the help of a syringe and polythene cannula, whereas in a few cases a branch of the splenic artery before entering to the hilum was ligated with silk to prevent the dye entering through that branch. The splenic artery was ligated after injecting the dye and the spleen was kept in the refrigerator overnight at a temperature of less than 5°C, to settle the dye. Next day, the dye injected spleen was radiographed.


Angiographic study of 162 human spleen (M:F::90:72) showed the intrasplenic ramification of the splenic artery and the avascular zones, in most of the cases. The splenic artery divided into terminal branches before entering into the hilum of the spleen (Fig. 1A and 1B). The terminal branches were ligated for injecting the dye into the specific intrasplenic area (Fig. 1A). The terminal branches entered into the hilum of the spleen and then divided into lobar branches which ramified as segmental branches in the parenchyma of the spleen (Fig 2A and 2B). In few cases, the lobar branches formed the arterial arcade in the intrahilar region and the segmental branches originated from the arterial arcade (Fig. 2A). The segmental branches had a course, parallel to the long axis, towards the diaphragmatic surface of the spleen (Fig. 3 & 4). The ligated specific terminal branch of the splenic artery (where dye was not injected) revealed avascular area in both male and female spleen (Fig. 3A and 3B). The inter-segmental zones were observed in the parenchyma of the spleen between the segmental branchs of the splenic artery (Fig. 4A & 4B). The segmental branches ramified in the inter-segmental zones, which were overlapped at many places in the male spleen (Fig 4A) but not in the female (Fig 4B). The segmental and their ramified branches were finally terminated as the end arteries especially in the peripheral regions (Fig 3 & 4). Anastomosis among the inter-segmental end arteries were not observed and the inter-segmental area showed the avascular zone specifically in the female spleen (fig 4B). The superior polar artery was found in 56% of the male and in 26.7% female spleens whereas the inferior polar artery was observed in 28% male and in 39.4% female spleens. The polar artery showed the specific areas of its distribution in the parenchyma of the spleen (Fig 4).


Segmentation of the spleen was first reported by Kyber (1870) in animals. Melnikoff (1923) observed the intrasplenic arterial anastomosis in the middle of the organ, whereas Lewis (1956) reported the intrasplenic arterial anastomosis in the fetus but not in the adult human spleen. Garcia and Lemes (1988) noticed the anastomotic bridges between arterial splenic compartment. Ignjatovic et al (2000) observed the intrasplenic arterial anastomosis in 25% cases, Gutierrez (1969), Gupta et al (1976), Mikhail et al (1979), Cougard (1984), Redmond et al (1989) and Jauregui (1999) reported that lobes and segments of the spleen were separated from each other by avascular planes.The segmental branches were running parallel to the long axis of the spleen (Dawson et al, 1986). The present study showed that segmental branches were overlapped at many places in the intersegmental region of the male spleen but not in the female, which was not observed earlier. These segmental branches travelled parallel to the long axis towards the diaphragmatic surface of the spleen. Mikhail et al (1979) and Jauregui (1999) observed that the intersegmental arteries terminated as end arteries. Our study also showed that the segmental branches ramified in intersegmental and peripheral zones and terminated as end arteries. The presence of the avascular zones were noticed in between the territory of the segmental branches.

Katritsis et al (1982) described that 60% superior and 80% inferior polar arteries arose from the splenic artery or one of its primary branch. Garcia & Lemes (1988) found this to be 29% and 44% respectively. Redmond et al (1989) reported that the polar segment was supplied by segmental artery of highly variable origin. Liu et al (1996) observed 31% of superior and 38% of inferior polar arteries. The sexual distribution of the polar artery was not mentioned in the literature whereas we observed the upper polar arteries in 56% of the male and 27% of the female spleen and lower polar arteries in 28% of the male and 39% of the female spleen. The branches of the polar arteries showed their own area of territory and the anastomosis were not found in the intersegmental zone in both sex. We did not inject the dye to one of the terminal branches of the splenic artery which showed a specific avascular area.

Partial splenectomy is a world wide practice and the present study showed that the splenic resection can be conducted safely in the female as it showed clear avascular zone. To avoid post operative sequelae and complications, utmost care should be taken when partial splenectomy is conducted in male as there were overlapping of the intersegmental branches.


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Fig. 1:

Missing Image

A : Photograph showing the two terminal branches of the splenic arteryentering the hilum of the spleen. B : Photograph showing the ligation (arrow) of one of the two terminal branches of the splenic artery (A). The splenic vein (V) accompanying the artery.

Fig. 2:

Missing Image

A: Photograph showing the formation of arterial arcade (arrow) in the intrahilar region of the spleen. B: Photograph showing the lobar and segmental branches originating from the single intrasplenic artery (arrow).

Fig. 3:

Missing Image

A : Photograph showing the avascular area (arrow) at the lower pole of the male spleen. B : Photograph showing the avascular area (arrow) at the upper pole of the female spleen.

Fig. 4:

Missing Image

A: Photograph showing the ramification of the segmental branches along with an intersegmental avascular zone (arrow) in the parenchyma of the male spleen. The segmental branches overlap in the intersegmental zone at many places. The upper polar artery (P) appears with the specific area of distribution.

B: Photograph showing the segmental artery running towards the diaphragmatic surface to terminate as end artery in the female spleen. The avascular zone (arrow) present in the intersegmental region. The lower polar artery (P) appears with the specific area of distribution.

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