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How Is a Splenectomy Performed? continued...

Sometimes during laparoscopic splenectomy the doctor has to switch to the open procedure. This may happen if you have bleeding problems during the operation.

Open splenectomy requires a larger surgical cut than the laparoscopic method. The surgeon makes an incision across the middle or left side of your abdomen underneath the rib cage. After locating the spleen, the surgeon disconnects it from the pancreas and the body's blood supply, and then removes it. The surgical openings are closed using stitches or sutures.

Laparoscopy vs. Open Surgery

Laparoscopy is less invasive than open surgery, and usually results in less pain, a faster recovery, and a shorter hospital stay. But not everyone can have laparoscopic surgery. Which method you and your doctor choose depends on your overall health and the size of your spleen. It can be hard to remove a very large or swollen spleen using a laparoscope. Patients who are obese or who have scar tissue in the spleen area from a previous operation also may not be able to have their spleen removed laparoscopically.

Recovering After a Splenectomy

After surgery, you will stay in the hospital for a while so doctors can monitor your condition. You will receive fluids through a vein, called an intravenous (IV) line, and pain medications to ease any discomfort.

How long you stay in the hospital depends on which type of splenectomy you have. If you have an open splenectomy, you may be sent home within one week. Those who have a laparoscopic splenectomy are usually sent home sooner.

It will take about four to six weeks to recover from the procedure. Your surgeon may tell you not to take a bath for a while after surgery so the wounds can heal. Showers may be OK. Your health care team will tell you if you need to temporarily avoid any other activities, such as driving.

Splenectomy Complications

You can live without a spleen. But because the spleen plays a crucial role in the body's ability to fight off bacteria, living without the organ makes you more likely to develop infections, especially dangerous ones such as Streptococcus pneumoniae, Neisseria meningitidis, and Haemophilus influenzae. These bacteria cause severe pneumonia, meningitis, and other serious infections. Vaccinations to cover these bacteria should ideally be given to patients about two weeks before planned surgery or roughly two weeks after emergency surgery. Your doctor may recommend other immunizations as well.

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