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01.12.2014 | Case report | Ausgabe 1/2014 Open Access

Journal of Medical Case Reports 1/2014

Prolonged severe immunodeficiency following thymectomy and radiation: a case report

Journal of Medical Case Reports > Ausgabe 1/2014
Johanna Lee Wickemeyer, Sudhir Sekhsaria
Wichtige Hinweise

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1186/​1752-1947-8-457) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

SS was the treating physician and analyzed patient data. JW was a major contributor to chart review and writing of the manuscript. Both authors read and approved the final manuscript.



Immunodeficiency can occur both in patients undergoing radiation therapy, as well as in patients who have had thymectomies. However, few studies have examined the immune recovery of a patient following both procedures. We aim to emphasize the need for assessment and consistent monitoring of patients with thymoma prior to and after combined treatment of thymectomy and radiation, both of which are likely to result in an increased risk for immunodeficiency.

Case presentation

We describe the longitudinal progress of a 59-year-old Asian male who underwent thymectomy followed by radiation therapy and subsequently presented with generalized urticaria. Revelation of a low absolute lymphocyte count (615 cells/mcL) on initial evaluation prompted further analysis of his immunoglobulin levels and antigen response to a polysaccharide pneumococcal vaccine (PneumoVax-23). Although his immunoglobulin levels were unremarkable, he failed to respond to 11 of 12 serotypes of the pneumococcal vaccine. As a result, he was placed on Bactrim® (trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole) prophylaxis to prevent opportunistic infections, and his CD4+ and CD8+ counts were monitored over the course of 8 years. His lymphocyte counts 87 months after thymectomy and 85 months after radiation therapy were as follows: absolute lymphocyte count 956 cells/mcL, absolute CD3+/CD4+ 164/mm3 (16%) and absolute CD3+/CD8+ 257/mm3 (25%). The patient was able to discontinue Bactrim® (trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole) prophylaxis after 9 years of treatment.


The lymphocytopenia, low CD4+ count, and failed response to pneumococcal vaccination that presented in our patient are consistent with immunodeficiency. After radiation alone, a recovery of T-lymphocytes is usually observed after approximately 3 weeks. Over the course of 8 years, he has still not made a full recovery according to laboratory markers, which seem to have stabilized at chronically low levels. To prevent serious complications, we suggest that patients who have undergone both thymectomy and radiation therapy be monitored for immunodeficiency. This case report informs the practices of allergists, oncologists, and neurologists in the continuing care of patients with thymoma.

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