Howell-Jolly body counting as a measure of splenic function. A reassessment

G. R. Corazza, L. Ginaldi, G. Zoli, M. Frisoni, G. Lalli, G. Gasbarrini, D. Quaglino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Non-surgical and surgical asplenia predisposes to fatal infections; therefore, simple, non-invasive and repeatable tests for assessing splenic function are required, even in non-specialized medical institutions. Howell-Jolly bodies are the most characteristic peripheral blood abnormality after splenectomy, but their counting is not considered a reliable measure of splenic function. In this study, in a group of splenectomized subjects and of patients with non-surgical hyposplenism, we have compared counting of Howell-Jolly bodies, stained by both the May-Grunwald/Giemsa method and the Feulgen reaction, with pitted cell counting which is considered a reliable technique for the assessment of splenic hypofunction. A significant correlation has been found between Howell-Jolly body counts, stained by either technique, and pitted cell counts (P <0.0001). Though Howell-Jolly bodies were never detectable when pitted cell counts fell between 4 and 8%, values consistent with a very mild splenic hypofunction, for pitted cell counts above 8% their increase was always associated with increasing Howell-Jolly body counts. These data suggest that, although pitted cell counting represents a more sensitive method for evaluating splenic function, Howell-Jolly body counting may still be regarded as a simple and reliable technique for identifying and monitoring those cases associated with a real risk of overwhelming infections.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-275
Number of pages7
JournalClinical and Laboratory Haematology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1990


  • Howell-Jolly bodies
  • pitted cells
  • splenectomy
  • splenic function

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology


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