Spleen Surgery / Splenectomy
The spleen is an organ located in the upper left quadrant of the abdomen. It is an integral part of the body’s immune system and plays a role in protecting us from various infections. The spleen also produces white blood cells, acts as a repository for red blood cells and as a filter for spent red blood cells and bacteria in the blood.
The spleen is a sensitive organ that can be damaged by disease or, more commonly, trauma. This damage, depending on the cause, can make the spleen swell, shrink or burst – all of which will likely require surgical treatment to remove part or all the diseased spleen. The surgical procedure to remove the spleen is known as a splenectomy and the removal of part of the spleen is a partial splenectomy.
While the rib cage does a good job of protecting the spleen from trauma, impacts from car or sports accidents, from physical violence or from other significant traumas can cause a rupture.
How we perform a splenectomy
Much like other surgeries that we perform within the abdomen, splenectomies are routinely completed in a minimally invasive manner. This requires only four small, half inch incisions in the abdomen versus a single large incision traditionally used in open surgery. Depending upon the patient’s surgical profile and any unexpected findings during surgery, there may be a need to convert to an open procedure for safety. However, this is a rare occurrence.
During the procedure, the spleen is carefully dissected from blood vessels and surrounding organs and it is removed from the abdomen using a specially made surgical bag which is inserted and removed through the largest of the minimally invasive ports.
Risks and considerations of splenectomy
Because the spleen plays an important role in infection control, most patients who have their spleens removed will stay in the hospital for longer than patients undergoing many other minimally invasive procedures. This is because they will be more susceptible to certain infection such as streptococcus, pneumonia and meningitis amongst others.
Upon release from the hospital, the risk of infection remains elevated and patients, especially those with compromised immune systems, will have to remain vigilant. Further, patients who have had their spleen removed will undergo more aggressive vaccination schedules then the typical adult, to try to prevent dangerous infections.
Other risks of a minimally invasive splenectomy are consistent with the inherent risks of any surgical procedure performed the abdomen.
A small number of patients have what is known as an accessory spleen. This is a second, small spleen in the same area as larger spleen. When the larger spleen is removed, there is a chance that the accessory spleen will grow, which can make up for the missing organ.
We invite you to schedule a consultation to learn more about spleen surgery.