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What is a splenectomy?

Splenectomy

A splenectomy is the surgical removal of the spleen. The spleen is an organ located under the ribs on the left side of the body. It filters your blood and helps your body fight infections. 

The spleen is part of the lymphatic system, which also includes the lymph nodes, lymph vessels, lymphatic fluid, the tonsils, thymus, and lymphoid tissue of the digestive tract. Your doctor may perform a splenectomy because your spleen has been damaged or diseased by certain types of cancer, infection, or blood disorder, such as immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP).

Other organs will take over the majority of the spleen’s former functions after your spleen is removed. However, the absence of a spleen puts you at increased risk of infection. You will need to work with your doctor to make sure you receive the right vaccinations, antibiotics, and other medications to bolster your immunity.

A splenectomy is a major surgery with serious risks and potential complications. You may have less invasive treatment options. Consider getting a second opinion about all your treatment choices before having a splenectomy. 

Medical Reviewers: Daphne E. Hemmings, MD, MPH Last Review Date: Jul 14, 2013

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Medical References

  1. Enlarged Liver and Spleen. Better Medicine. http://www.bettermedicine.com/article/enlarged-liver-and-spleen.
  2. Patient Information for Laparoscopic Spleen Removal (Splenectomy) from SAGES. Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons. http://www.sages.org/publication/id/PI12/.
  3. Spleen Cancer. Better Medicine. http://www.bettermedicine.com/article/spleen-cancer.
  4. Splenectomy. American Academy of Family Physicians http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/articles/655.html.

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