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Spleen removal - open - adults - discharge

Alternate Names

Splenectomy - adult - discharge; Spleen removal - adult - discharge

When You Were in the Hospital

Your spleen was removed after you were given general anesthesia (asleep and pain-free).

The surgeon made an incision (cut) in the middle of your belly. Or the incision was made on the left side of your belly just below the ribs. If you are being treated for cancer, the surgeon probably also removed the lymph nodes in your belly.

What to Expect at Home

Recovering from open spleen removal surgery takes 4 to 8 weeks. You may have some of these symptoms as you recover:

  • Pain around the incision for 1 to 2 weeks. This pain should lessen each day.
  • Sore throat from your breathing tube. Sucking on ice chips or gargling may help soothe your throat.
  • Nausea and maybe throwing up. Your surgeon can write you a prescription for nausea medicine if you need it
  • Bruising or skin redness around your wound. This will go away on its own.
  • Trouble taking deep breaths

If your spleen was removed for a blood disorder or lymphoma, you may need more treatments. This depends on your medical disorder.

Activity

Plan to have someone drive you home from the hospital. Do not drive yourself home.

Make sure your home is safe as you are recovering. For example, remove throw rugs to prevent tripping and falling. To stay safe in the bathroom, install grab bars to help you get in and out of the tub or shower.

You should be able to do most of your regular activities in 4 to 8 weeks. Before that:

  • Do not lift anything heavier than 10 to 15 pounds until your doctor says it is okay.
  • Avoid all strenuous activity. This includes heavy exercising, weightlifting, and other activities that make you breathe hard or strain.
  • Short walks and using stairs are okay.
  • Light housework is okay.
  • Do not push yourself too hard. Gradually increase how much you are active.

Managing Pain

Your doctor will prescribe pain medicines for you to use at home. If you are taking pain pills 3 or 4 times a day, try taking them at the same times each day for 3 to 4 days. They may be more effective this way.

Try getting up and moving around if you are having pain in your belly. This may ease your pain.

Press a pillow over your incision when you cough or sneeze to ease discomfort and protect your incision.

Wound Care

Care for your incision as instructed. Change the dressing over your surgical incision once a day, or sooner if it gets wet or dirty. Your doctor will tell you when you can stop keeping your incision covered. Keep the incision area clean by washing it with mild soap and water.

You may remove the dressings (bandages) and take showers if sutures (stitches), staples, or glue were used to close your skin.

If glue or strips of tape were used to close your incision:

  • Cover the incision with plastic wrap before showering for the first week.
  • Do not try to wash off the tape or glue. It will fall off on its own in about a week.

Do not soak in a bathtub or hot tub or go swimming until your doctor tells you it is okay.

Preventing Infections

Most people live a normal active life without a spleen, but there is always a risk of getting an infection. This is because the spleen is part of the body's immune system, helping fight infections. 

After your spleen is removed, you will be more likely to get infections:

  • For the first week after surgery, check your temperature every day.
  • Always tell your doctor if you have a fever, sore throat, headache, belly pain, or diarrhea, or an injury that breaks your skin.

Keeping up to date on your immunizations will be very important. Ask your doctor if you should have these vaccinations:

  • Pneumonia vaccination
  • Meningococcal vaccination
  • Haemophilus vaccination
  • Flu shot (every year)

You may need to take antibiotics every day for some time. Do not stop taking antibiotics without checking with your doctor. Some people will need to take antibiotics every day for several years after surgery.

Things you can do to help prevent infections:

  • Eat healthy foods to keep your immune system strong.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. Ask family members to do the same.
  • Get treated for any bites, especially dog bites, right away.
  • Protect your skin when you are camping or hiking or doing other outdoor activities. Wear long sleeves and pants.
  • Tell your doctor if you plan to travel out of the country.
  • Tell all of your health care providers (dentist, doctors, nurses, or nurse practitioners) that you do not have a spleen.
  • You can even buy and wear a bracelet that will tell all health care workers that you do not have a spleen.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor or nurse if:

  • Your temperature is above 101°F (38.3°C).
  • Your incisions are bleeding, are red or warm to the touch, or they have a thick, yellow, green, or milky drainage.
  • You have pain that your pain medicines are not helping.
  • It is hard to breathe.
  • You have a cough that does not go away.
  • You cannot drink or eat.
  • You develop a skin rash and feel ill.

References

Cadili A, de Gara C. Complications of splenectomy. Am J Med. 2008;121:371-375.

Shelton J, Holzman MD. The spleen. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 57.


Review Date: 2/7/2013
Reviewed By: Matthew M. Cooper, MD, FACS, Medical Director, Cardiovascular Surgery, HealthEast Care System, St. Paul, MN. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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