The spleen is removed while you are under general anesthesia (asleep and pain-free). The surgeon may do either an open splenectomy or a laparoscopic splenectomy.
During open spleen removal:
The surgeon makes a cut (incision) in the middle of the belly or on the left side of the belly just below the ribs.
The spleen is located and removed.
If you are also being treated for cancer, lymph nodes in the belly are examined. They may also be removed.
The incision is closed using stitches or staples.
During laparoscopic spleen removal:
The surgeon makes three or four small cuts in the belly.
The surgeon inserts an instrument called a laparoscope through one of the cuts. The scope has a tiny camera and light on the end, which allows the surgeon to see inside the belly. Other instruments are inserted through the other cuts.
Gas is pumped into the belly to expand it. This gives the surgeon room to work.
The surgeon uses the scope and other instruments to remove the spleen.
The scope and other instruments are removed. The incisions are closed using stitches or staples.
With laparoscopic surgery, recovery is often faster and less painful than with open surgery. Talk to your surgeon about which type of surgery is right for you or your child.
Why the Procedure Is Performed
Conditions that may require spleen removal include:
The outcome of this surgery depends on what disease or injuries you or your child has. People who do not have other severe injuries or medical problems usually recover after this surgery.
After the spleen is removed, a person is more likely to develop infections. Talk with the doctor about getting needed vaccinations, especially the yearly flu vaccine. Children may need to take antibiotics to prevent infections. Most adults do not need antibiotics long-term.
Brandow AM, Camitta BC. Hyposplenism, splenic trauma, and splenectomy. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 487.
Shelton J, Holzman MD. The spleen. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 57.
Debra G. Wechter, MD, FACS, general surgery practice specializing in breast cancer, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.