Laparoscopic splenectomy is a minimally invasive procedure that is performed to remove a damaged or diseased spleen, an organ located in the upper left-hand side of the stomach that filters blood and helps the body fight infections.
Preparing for surgery
Most commonly a splenectomy is performed to treat a ruptured spleen, however several other conditions may also require removal of the spleen, including:
- Enlarged spleen
- Blood diseases or disorders
- Blood vessel problems
- Trauma to the spleen
A ruptured spleen may require surgery right away, but if you have time to prepare, you may need to receive blood transfusions to increase the number of red blood cells before removal of the spleen and receive vaccines to help prevent infection after surgery.
During the procedure, your doctor may perform a laparoscopic splenectomy that is performed under general anesthesia where your doctor will create three-to-four small incisions in the middle of the stomach. A tiny camera that allows your doctor to watch the procedure on a screen is inserted into one of openings, and surgical tools are inserted into the remaining two-to-three incisions. This technique is less invasive, so it typically requires less recovery time and may allow you to go home the day after surgery.
Laparoscopic surgery is not appropriate for everyone, so your doctor may perform an open splenectomy, a technique that uses a larger incision for removal of the spleen. This type of procedure is more invasive and may require a longer hospital stay.
Recovering After Surgery
Recovery from surgery will vary for each patient but generally, patients return to a normal lifestyle within two to six weeks after a splenectomy. Other organs in your body will take over the majority of functions the spleen previously performed; however, you will be at an increased risk of infection and may have a more difficult time recovering from illnesses.
Your doctor may recommend preventative measures, such as vaccines or antibiotics, to ward off potential infections, but it is important track your symptoms and talk to your doctor at the first sign of an infection, including:
- A fever greater than 100.4 F
- Sore throat
- Unusual redness or swelling with pain
- Colds that last longer than normal