What is a splenectomy?
A splenectomy is a surgical procedure in which your spleen is removed. The spleen is an organ that is located under your rib cage in your upper left abdomen. The spleen plays and important role in helping your body fight infection. It also filters unneeded materials from your blood.
Why do I need a splenectomy?
A splenectomy is used to treat several diseases and conditions. Your doctor will talk to you about why a splenectomy has been recommended for you. The procedure is usually recommended if you have one of the following conditions:
- Blood disorder
- Cyst or tumour
- Enlarged spleen
- Ruptured spleen
What happens during a splenectomy?
Before your surgery you will be given a general anaesthetic, which means you will be asleep for the whole procedure. Your surgeon may choose to conduct either a laparoscopic procedure (also known as keyhole surgery) or an open splenectomy, which is a traditional procedure involving a larger incision. He or she will probably discuss this approach with you prior to your surgery.
Laparoscopic splenectomy. During a laparoscopic splenectomy, your surgeon will make four small incisions in your abdomen. He or she will then insert a fibreoptic video camera and light through one of the incisions in your abdomen. Video images of your spleen are then displayed on a monitor and your spleen will be removed with surgical tools that are placed in the other incision points. Once your spleen is removed, your incisions will be closed.
Open splenectomy. Open splenectomies are used when you have a significantly enlarged spleen or when your surgeon considers it a safer option. During an open splenectomy your surgeon will make a single incision in the middle of your abdomen. He or she will move aside any surrounding muscle and tissue to reveal your spleen. Your spleen will then be surgically removed and your incision will be closed.
What is the cost of a splenectomy?
Splenectomy procedures are performed in both public and private hospitals. If you choose to have your procedure in a private hospital, a portion of the cost may be covered by your private health insurance. It’s a good idea to discuss this with your insurance provider.
Please contact the Sydney GI Surgery team to discuss your needs and for an accurate assessment of the cost involved.
What are the risks of a splenectomy?
Splenectomy is generally a safe procedure, however, as with any surgery there is a risk of potential complications including:
- Blood clots
- Injury to nearby organs, including your stomach, pancreas and colon.
After a splenectomy you will be more susceptible to serious infections. Your doctor may recommend vaccinations before surgery and preventative antibiotics after surgery.
Recovery from a splenectomy
Immediately after surgery you will be moved to a recovery room and your vital signs will be monitored. If you had a laparoscopic procedure you may be able to go home the same day or the day after. Be sure to arrange for someone to drive you home.
If you’ve had open surgery you will need to stay in hospital for two to five nights. Your surgeon will talk to you about this prior to surgery.
Your surgeon will also talk to you about how long you need to wait before resuming your normal activities. With laparoscopic surgery the average time is two weeks. With open surgery it may be up to six weeks.
After your spleen has been removed other organs in your body take over. It’s possible to be quite active without your spleen, however, you will have a slightly higher risk of becoming sick or getting infections. If you develop a fever or feel unwell post-splenectomy you should see your GP promptly.