Is Spleen Removal?
Your spleen is a small organ located on the left side of
your abdomen, under the rib cage. This organ is part of your immune system and
helps to fight off infections while also filtering damaged and old cells out of
your bloodstream. If your spleen needs to be removed, you‘ll undergo a surgical
procedure called a splenectomy.
Undergoing a spleen removal leaves you with a compromised,
or weakened, immune system. Since infections can be more dangerous without a
spleen, you may need yearly vaccines and prophylactic antibiotics. Prophylactic
antibiotics are used to prevent a bacterial infection from occurring. They
aren’t used to treat an existing infection.
for a Spleen Removal
There are several reasons that your doctor may recommend
that you have your spleen removed. These include having:
- a spleen that’s damaged from injury
- an enlarged spleen
- certain rare blood disorders
- an enlarged or ruptured spleen, which can occur
- cancer or large cysts of the spleen
Your spleen may need to be removed if you have a severe
blood disorder that doesn’t respond to other treatments. Blood disorders of
this type include:
- sickle cell anemia
- hemolytic anemia
- idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura
- polycythemia vera
A viral infection, such as mononucleosis, or a bacterial
infection, such as syphilis, can cause your spleen to become enlarged.
An enlarged spleen traps an excessive amount of blood cells
and platelet. Eventually it traps and destroys healthy red blood cells as well.
This is called hypersplenism, and it leads to a large reduction of healthy
blood cells and platelets in your bloodstream. Your spleen becomes clogged,
which then begins to interfere with its functioning. An enlarged spleen can
cause anemia, infection, and excessive bleeding. It may eventually rupture,
which is life-threatening.
If your spleen has ruptured, you may need a splenectomy
immediately because of life-threatening internal bleeding. A rupture may be
caused by a physical injury, such as being hit by a car, or by an enlargement
of your spleen.
Certain cancers such as lymphocytic leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s
lymphoma, and Hodgkin’s disease affect the spleen. These can cause your spleen
to enlarge, which can lead to a rupture. The spleen may also need to be removed
because of the presence of a cyst or tumor.
A severe infection in your spleen may not respond to
antibiotics or other treatments. This type of infection can lead to a more serious
abscess or an inflammation and a buildup of pus. Your spleen may need to be
removed to resolve the infection.
of Spleen Removal Surgeries
A splenectomy may be performed as a traditional open surgery
or as a laparoscopic, or minimally invasive, procedure. You will be under
sedation for either procedure.
A traditional open surgery involves making a cut down the
center of your abdomen. The surgeon then moves aside other tissues to remove
your spleen. The incision is then closed with stitches. Open surgery is
preferred if you have scar tissue from other surgeries or if your spleen has
This type of surgery is minimally invasive and has a quicker
and less painful recovery time than open surgery. In a laparoscopic
splenectomy, your surgeon makes just a few small cuts in your abdomen. Then, they
use a small camera to project a video of your spleen onto a monitor. Your
surgeon can then remove your spleen with small tools. They’ll then stitch up
the small incisions. Your surgeon may decide an open surgery is necessary after
viewing your spleen on the camera.
Benefits of a Spleen Removal
Removing your spleen is a major surgery and leaves you with
a compromised immune system. For these reasons, it’s only performed when truly
necessary. The benefits of a splenectomy are that it can resolve several health
issues such as blood diseases, cancer, and infection that could not be treated
any other way. Having a ruptured spleen removed can save your life.
Risks of a Spleen Removal
Risks of having any major surgery include the following:
- blood loss during the surgery
- allergic reactions or breathing difficulties
- the formation of blood clots
- stroke or heart attack
There are also risks associated with the removal of the
spleen in particular. These include:
- formation of a blood clot in the vein that moves
blood to your liver
- a hernia at the incision site
- an internal infection
- a collapsed lung
- damage to the organs near your spleen, including
the stomach, colon, and pancreas
- a collection of pus under your diaphragm
Open and laparoscopic splenectomies both have risks.
to Prepare for a Spleen Removal
Your surgeon and doctor will help you prepare for your
procedure. You’ll need to inform them of all medications you’re taking and if
you may be pregnant. Your doctor will probably give you vaccines against
certain viruses because spleen removal weakens your immune system. You may also
need to get a blood transfusion to ensure that you have enough platelets and
red blood cells to endure the surgery and its accompanying blood loss.
Your doctor may ask you to stop taking certain medicines
days before the surgery. You’ll also need to fast and stop drinking any fluids
several hours before the procedure.
Outcomes of a Spleen Removal
The outlook for a splenectomy varies greatly depending on
the type and severity of the disease or injury that led to the surgery. Full
recovery from a splenectomy usually takes between four and six weeks. You may
only need to stay in the hospital for a few days following the surgery. Your
surgeon or doctor will tell you when you can return to your normal activities.
Long-Term Outlook for Spleen Removal
The long-term outlook is very good if you’re otherwise healthy.
If you’ve had your spleen removed, however, you’ll always be more susceptible
to infection and you may need vaccinations and prophylactic antibiotics for the
rest of your life.
The rise of antibiotic resistance makes prophylactic
antibiotics controversial. However, certain people should be strongly
considered for these preventive measures. This includes children who are younger
than 5 years old. If you’ve had a splenectomy less than a year ago or you have
an underlying immunodeficiency, you should also be considered for prophylactic
Your doctor will come up with a plan to help you stay
healthy after your spleen is removed.