What is a splenectomy?

A splenectomy is the surgical removal of your spleen.

Where is my spleen and what does it do?

Your spleen is an organ that is located in the upper left side of your abdomen. About the size of a fist, the spleen has several functions.

Your spleen:

  • Removes (filters) old and damaged blood cells.
  • Produces antibodies that help fight infection.
  • Stores blood cells.

Why would I need to have my spleen removed?

Your spleen may be removed for a number of diseases

  • Certain cancers: Lymphoma (Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma) is the main such conditions for which your spleen might be removed. Other less common diagnoses, such as chronic lymphocytic leukemia, hairy cell leukemia and cancers that have spread to the spleen can also be other reasons for having your spleen removed.
  • Blood disorders: When medical treatment isn’t successful, certain conditions may be treated by removing your spleen. These disorders mainly include idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura and autoimmune hemolytic anemia.
  • Enlarged spleen (splenomegaly): Splenectomy may be needed to determine the cause of the enlarged spleen or to treat symptoms such as pain and early satiety (feeling full after eating only a small amount of food).
  • Hypersplenism: An enlarged spleen may become overactive, destroying too many blood cells and platelets.
  • Trauma: Although many cases can be treated without removal, splenectomy can be necessary if bleeding can't be controlled.
  • Infection: Abscess of the spleen is very rare, but can be a reason to remove your spleen.

How are spleen disorders diagnosed?

Spleen disorders are diagnosed with:

  • Blood tests, including complete blood count.
  • Physical examination (an enlarged spleen may be felt by your healthcare provider).
  • Imaging tests such as ultrasound or computerized tomography (CT) scans.
  • Bone marrow tissue biopsy.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/23/2020.

References

  • Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons. Spleen Removal (Splenectomy). Accessed 9/21/2020.
  • Qureshi FG, Ergun O, Sandulache VC, et al. Laparoscopic Splenectomy in Children. JSLS : Journal of the Society of Laparoendoscopic Surgeons. 2005;9(4):389-392. Accessed 9/21/2020.
  • Genetics Home Reference. Hereditary spherocytosis. Accessed 9/21/2020.
  • Yi S. Stat Pearls. Splenectomy. Accessed 9/21/2020.

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