Why do patients require an elective splenectomy?
The spleen’s main functions are to filter old and damaged red blood cells from your blood, and to produce lymphocytes (special white blood cells) that fight infections.
The main reasons for having an elective (non-emergency) splenectomy are associated with problems with your blood.
A splenectomy may also be recommended because of problems that can cause your spleen to get bigger.
What are the benefits of a splenectomy?
A splenectomy can help to control your symptoms and, if your spleen has got bigger, will remove the life-threatening risk of your spleen rupturing.
Are there any alternatives to surgery?
If you have a problem with your blood, it is possible to have drug treatment to cure or manage the problem.
What does the operation involve?
The operation is performed under a general anaesthetic and usually takes between one and two hours.
Your surgeon will remove the spleen either by using the laparoscopic (‘keyhole’) technique or by an open cut in the upper abdomen or under the right ribcage.
What complications can happen?
General complications of any operation:
- Infection of the surgical site (wound)
- Unsightly scarring
- Developing a hernia in the scar
- Blood clots
Specific complications of this operation:
a. Laparoscopic complications
- Damage to internal organs
- Developing a hernia near one of the cuts
- Surgical emphysema
b. Splenectomy complications
- Rise in platelet count
- Damage to your stomach or bowel
- Damage to your pancreas
- Post-splenectomy sepsis
How soon will I recover?
You should be able to go home within a day or two after laparoscopic surgery, and between five and seven days after open surgery.
You should be able to return to work after three to four weeks but this may vary depending on the extent of surgery and your type of work.
Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, you should ask a member of the healthcare team or your GP for advice.
Without a spleen you are more likely to get life-threatening infections. You will need to take antibiotics and be immunised regularly for a number of years.
Elective splenectomy summary
An elective splenectomy is usually recommended for certain problems with your blood and to remove the life-threatening risk of your spleen rupturing.
Paying for your procedure
Elective splenectomy costs are covered by most medical insurance policies, but please check with your insurer first. If you are paying for your own procedure the cost will be explained and confirmed in writing when you book the procedure. Ask the hospital for a quote beforehand, and ensure that this includes the surgeon’s fee, the anaesthetist’s fee and the hospital charge for your procedure.
Author: Mr Ian Beckingham DM FRCS and Mr Irfan Ahmed FCPS FRCS
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