The spleen is an organ that lies next to the stomach. One of its functions is to remove worn-out blood cells and foreign particles from circulation; with the lymph nodes, it plays a part in the formation of antibodies. If the spleen is lacerated or ruptured, excessive, uncontrollable hemorrhaging occurs, and the spleen must be removed. Other conditions indicating splenectomy are cancer of the lymph nodes and certain blood disorders. Removal of the spleen does not lead to any permanent disabilities in an adult.

Before the operation, a number of tests including a complete blood count, chest X ray, and electrocardiogram, (EKG) will be performed. Several units of compatible blood will be reserved for a transfusion. An intravenous needle will be inserted into one arm so that fluids can be given to prevent dehydration. One inserted in the other arm will be used for the blood transfusion, if it is needed. One will be given a sedative and a general anesthetic.

After the abdomen is sterilized, an incision will be made through the skin, tissue, and muscle so that the liver, gallbladder, and spleen can be examined. The spleen is separated from surrounding tissues and removed. A portion of the omentum, a fold in the abdominal lining, is sutured over the space, and the incision is closed.

The entire operation takes four to five hours; afterward, one will rest in the recovery room for about the same amount of time. One should try to walk around one’s room the next day; however, strenuous activities should be avoided for about a month. Painkillers will be prescribed. One will also receive a vaccine against pneumonia, since resistance to infection is lowered in persons after splenectomy.

If a wound infection should develop, it will be treated with antibiotics. A scar will be left across the abdomen.