Spleen Removal / Splenectomy
The spleen is an organ located in the upper left quadrant of the abdomen, under the rib cage. As a component of the body’s immune system, the spleen produces white blood cells that fight infection. It also holds a reservoir of red blood cells and acts as a filtration system for certain wastes including old red blood cells and bacteria.
What is a Splenectomy?
A splenectomy is the removal of the entire spleen. If surgery is employed to remove only part of spleen, this is called a partial splenectomy.
Why Would I Need a Splenectomy?
The removal of the spleen is indicated when there is significant damage or disease associated with the organ. The most common reason for a splenectomy is due to trauma that results in the rupture of the spleen. This can occur during contact sports, vehicle accidents or any other significant blow to the upper abdomen. Other reasons for removing a spleen may include illnesses that may alternately inflame the spleen or cause it to shrink and stop functioning. These diseases can vary and may also include blood disorders, autoimmune diseases, cancers and cysts.
How is a Splenectomy Performed?
Much like most of the procedures performed at our facility, a splenectomy is typically performed in a minimally invasive manner. Several small incisions are made in the upper left quadrant of the abdomen and the spleen is removed through one of the port sites. In rare cases, the procedure may have to be converted to open surgery for patient safety.
Recovery from laparoscopic splenectomy is like that of other procedures. A typical hospital stay requires 2 to 3 days, assuming there are no serious complications. Since the spleen plays an important part in the immune system’s effectiveness, patients that are particularly susceptible to infection may be monitored for a longer period. This will be discussed preoperatively and during consultation.
Risks are similar to other minimally invasive general surgery procedures and include infection, bleeding, pain and in very rare cases, death.
Things to Know After Spleen Removal
Some people have what is known as an accessory spleen. This is a small, second spleen, that may exist near the first. In these patients, the removal of the larger spleen may stimulate the growth and use of the smaller spleen. This may assist the body in fighting infection as the larger spleen once did.
Patients that have a splenectomy will be more likely to develop certain infections such as strep, pneumonia, meningitis and others. This can lead to potentially serious complications. To minimize the chance of infection, patients will have a more aggressive vaccination regimen than the general population – especially high risk patients (younger, elderly, pregnant and immune-compromised patients). Be sure to contact your doctor anytime you experience the signs of infection after having your spleen removed as these infections can spread rapidly and can even cause death in severe cases.