Elective splenectomy

Elective splenectomy is a surgical procedure to remove part or all of your spleen. It is usually recommended if you have blood disorders, an enlarged spleen, or lymphoma or leukaemia cancers in your spleen. Splenectomy can be performed by keyhole or open surgery.

What is elective splenectomy?

An elective splenectomy is planned surgery to remove your spleen. It is performed if your spleen is not working properly or if it's enlarged, diseased or damaged.

It can be performed as minimally invasive surgery using a telescopic instrument called a laparoscope or by open surgery through a large abdominal incision.

Splenectomy can be complete when your entire spleen is removed or partial when only a segment of your spleen is taken away.

The spleen is an organ that sits under your rib cage on the upper left side of your abdomen. It helps fight infection and filters unneeded material, such as old or damaged blood cells, from your blood.

What are the indications for splenectomy?

Splenectomy can be performed for the following conditions:

  • Blood disorders - including idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) where your body destroys its own platelets and autoimmune haemolytic anaemia where your immune system makes an antibody against its own red blood cells.
  • Enlarged spleen – caused by a number of infections, injuries or diseases or health conditions, such as cirrhosis and rheumatoid arthritis. It does not always cause symptoms but you may feel pain behind your left ribs, fullness quickly after eating and fatigue. Hypersplenism is an enlarged overactive spleen that removes blood cells and platelets too early and too quickly.
  • Ruptured spleen - your spleen may become damaged or burst after a severe abdominal injury. A ruptured spleen may cause pain and tenderness behind your left ribs, dizziness and a rapid heart rate. It is a medical emergency, as it can cause life-threatening bleeding.
  • Cancers – mainly lymphoma (Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma) and less commonly chronic lymphocytic leukaemia and hairy cell leukaemia. Your spleen will be removed if these cancers have spread to it.
  • Cysts - noncancerous cysts may be caused by trauma or disease. If they become large, they can cause upper abdominal pain.
  • Infections – if you have a severe infection or you develop an abscess with a large collection of pus and inflammation in your spleen, you may require spleen removal if other treatment hasn’t helped. A spleen abscess is very rare.

A splenectomy may also be performed to help diagnose a condition. This can happen if you have an enlarged spleen and your doctor cannot determine why.

What is the most common indication for elective splenectomy?

The most common indication for elective splenectomy is a blood disorder called idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP).

ITP is an autoimmune condition whereby antibodies target your blood platelets. These platelets help your blood clot. If you have ITP, you are at risk of bleeding. Your spleen makes these antibodies and removes the platelets from your blood. Medical treatment is usually the first option but if it isn’t successful then you may have your spleen removed to treat this condition.

Does a splenectomy affect life expectancy?

Splenectomy is generally a safe procedure. But as with any surgery, it carries potential risks of complications, including bleeding, blood clots, infection and injury to nearby organs.

After spleen removal, other organs in your body take over most functions that were previously performed by your spleen.

However, you are at increased risk of becoming sick or getting serious or life-threatening infections. The main ones include pneumonia, meningitis and influenza. This is because your spleen plays an important role in fighting off bacteria. Your doctor may recommend vaccines against these various infections and also preventive antibiotics, especially if you have other conditions that increase your risk of serious infections.

Without a spleen, you may also find it more difficult to recover from an illness or injury.

After splenectomy, you should be vigilant and notify your doctor immediately if you develop an illness with a high fever.

What are the costs of an elective splenectomy?

The costs of an elective splenectomy will depend on the reason for your surgery, whether open or laparoscopic surgery is performed, if a complete or partial splenectomy is required, and your Ramsay hospital of choice.

You will receive a formal quotation price after your consultation with one of our experienced general surgeons. This formal quote for your splenectomy will be valid for 60 days.

We have a number of finance options if you are paying for your surgery yourself. These include:

  • Interest-free finance – requires no deposit and you can make monthly instalments at 0% interest.
  • All-inclusive Total Care – is a one-off payment at a pre-agreed price.
  • Pay as you go – a flexible funding option if costs are difficult to assess or you want to pay for your costs as and when they arise.

Ramsay is recognised by all major medical insurers. Elective splenectomy is usually covered by your medical insurance policy. We advise that you obtain written confirmation from your insurance before proceeding with your surgery.

What is the recovery process of an elective splenectomy?

The recovery process of an elective splenectomy will vary depending on the extent of the spleen removed and the type of surgery used to remove it.

If you have laparoscopic surgery, you are likely to go home the same day or the day after. If you have open surgery, you may go home up to six days after your surgery.<./p>

Your doctor will advise you when you can resume your daily activities at home. Typically, after laparoscopic surgery, this is two weeks and after open surgery, it may be six weeks.

Elective splenectomy at Ramsay Health Care

Our team of general surgeons are experts in the surgical removal of the spleen. They have vast knowledge and experience in performing this surgery and will answer any questions you have.

Ramsay hospitals offer convenient and timely appointments for a fast and reliable diagnosis and prompt treatment.

When surgically appropriate, laparoscopic surgery is performed using the latest equipment often in our purpose-built and JAG-accredited endoscopy units. If necessary, they can skilfully perform open splenectomy.

All Ramsay hospitals adhere to strict infection control and prevention protocols to minimise the risk of any infection, including COVID-19.

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