A splenectomy is the surgical removal of the spleen. The spleen is located near the stomach on the left side of the body, just under the rib cage. It’s a small organ – it should be about the size of your fist – that plays a role in your immune system. It’s known for “cleaning” the blood by removing old red blood cells and supplying the bloodstream with fresh ones. It also houses white blood cells that fight infection.
The spleen may need to be removed if it is ruptured in a traumatic accident or is affected by cancer. There are also blood disorders that can necessitate its removal.
Once the spleen is removed, it does not regenerate. You will be able to function without it, but patients without a spleen are more susceptible to illness. Vaccinations against serious bacterial infections are recommended in close proximity to the surgery.
A splenectomy is performed under general anesthesia and can be done both open and laparoscopically. A laparoscopic approach results in minimal scarring, less pain and a shorter hospital stay.