Splenectomy is the surgical removal of the spleen. The spleen is an organ in the upper left part of the abdomen. It lies beneath the ribs and behind the stomach.
The spleen filters blood. It removes items that can cause infection such as bacteria or parasites. It also removes old and damaged blood cells.
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You may need to be treated by having a splenectomy if you have:
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
Your doctor may do the following:
Imaging tests to evaluate the abdomen and spleen may include:
Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to 1 week before the procedure.
General anesthesia will be used. You will be asleep during the procedure.
The spleen can be removed through an open incision or through laparoscopic surgery.
An incision will be made in the abdomen over the spleen. The skin and muscles will be pulled back. The blood vessels to and around the spleen will be tied off. This will free the organ. Moist sponges may be placed in the abdomen. The sponges will absorb some of the blood and fluid. The spleen will be removed. The sponges will then be removed.
The muscles and skin will be closed with stitches or staples. A gauze dressing will be placed over the wound.
A small incision will be made in the abdomen. A thin, lighted tube with a small camera will be inserted through the incision. It allows the doctor to see inside your body. Carbon dioxide gas will be passed into the abdomen. This puffs up the abdomen. It will give the doctor more room to work.
Two or 3 more small incisions will be made. Special tools will be inserted through these incisions. Blood vessels to the spleen will be cut and tied off. The spleen will then be rotated and removed. The incisions will be closed with stitches and covered with surgical tape.
The removed spleen is sent to the lab for testing.
You will be taken to a recovery room and monitored. You may need a blood transfusion if you lost a lot of blood.
About 45 to 60 minutes
Anesthesia prevents pain during the procedure. There will be some pain and discomfort until you have healed. Medicine can help to manage discomfort.
The usual length of stay is 2 to 4 days. The stay may be longer if there are complications.
Complete recovery may take up to 6 weeks. Some activities will be limited during recovery.
The spleen is part of the immune system. There is a higher risk of some infections after it is removed. Vaccines can boost protection against the infections. The type will depend on individual needs.
It is important for you to monitor your recovery after you leave the hospital. Alert your doctor to any problems right away. If any of the following occur, call your doctor:
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Caring for Kids—Canadian Paediatric Society
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
Cadili A, de Gara C. Complications of splenectomy. Am J Med. 2008;121(5):371-375.
Sabiston DC Jr. Textbook of Surgery. 17th ed. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Co.; 2004.
Splenectomy. The Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/splenectomy-spleen-removal. Accessed September 19, 2019.
Splenomegaly—differential diagnosis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T270052/Splenomegaly-differential-diagnosis. Accessed September 5, 2019.
10/9/2009 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116823/Splenic-injury-and-rupture: Renzulli P, Hostettler A, Schoepfer AM, Gloor B, Candinas D. Systematic review of atraumatic splenic rupture. Br J Surg. 2009;96(10):1114-1121.
Last reviewed September 2019 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Donald W. Buck II, MD
Last Updated: 10/9/2020