A splenectomy is an operation to remove your spleen.
Your spleen is an organ about the size of your fist located in the upper left side of your abdomen underneath your ribcage. Your spleen filters old and damaged red blood cells from your blood and produces special white blood cells that help fight infection.
You can live without your spleen as your liver performs these functions. But you may be at a higher risk of infection.
What happens during a splenectomy?
A splenectomy can be performed laparoscopically or as open surgery depending on your own situation.
Laparoscopic splenectomy - Your surgeon will make a small cut on your abdomen (stomach) so they can insert an instrument in your abdominal cavity to inflate it with gas (carbon dioxide). They will make several small cuts on your abdomen so they can insert tubes (ports) into your abdomen. Your surgeon will insert surgical instruments through the ports along with a telescope so they can see inside your abdomen and remove your spleen. After removing the instruments they will close your wounds with stitches or staples.
Open splenectomy – some patients are not good candidate for laparoscopic surgery. If this is the case, your splenectomy may be performed through a larger incision (cut) in your abdomen.
Following your surgery you will be taken to a recovery area where our healthcare team will monitor you until you have fully recovered from any anaesthetic. They will also give you medication for pain relief.
Your length of stay in hospital will depend on how your surgery is performed. Your consultant will discuss this with you.
Going home after a splenectomy
You will not be able to drive so please arrange for someone to take you home on the day of discharge. Continue to take any pain relief medication as needed. You may also need to take antibiotics.
Discuss any return to work with your consultant.
You may be advised to avoid strenuous activity or heavy lifting for several weeks following your surgery.
Full recovery from a splenectomy can take four to six weeks. Without a spleen you may have a higher risk of infection. Your consultant may recommend regular flu and pneumonia vaccinations. You may need to take antibiotics on a regular basis.
Most people make a good recovery from a splenectomy. As with any surgical procedure there could be complications such as:
- Blood clots (deep vein thrombosis – DVT)
- Reaction to anaesthetic
Specific complications of a splenectomy may include:
- Damage to other organs
- Long term risk of infection
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