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Dr Shishir Seth
Dr Shishir Seth

Senior Consultant – Hematology

CONSULTS AT

Indraprastha Apollo Hospital

EXPEREIENCE :
13 years
SURGERIES :
150+

Treatment Starting at $6,000

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Treatment Starting at $6,000

Dr Shishir Seth
Dr Shishir Seth

Senior Consultant – Hematology

CONSULTS AT

Indraprastha Apollo Hospital

EXPEREIENCE :
13 years
SURGERIES :
150+
Prof. Dr. Coskun Polat
Prof. Dr. Coskun Polat

Professor- General Surgery & Oncology

CONSULTS AT

Okan University Hospital, Tuzla

EXPEREIENCE :
30+ years
SURGERIES :
NA

Treatment Price on request

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Treatment Price on request

Prof. Dr. Coskun Polat
Prof. Dr. Coskun Polat

Professor- General Surgery & Oncology

CONSULTS AT

Okan University Hospital, Tuzla

EXPEREIENCE :
30+ years
SURGERIES :
NA
Dr. K R Vasudevan
Dr. K R Vasudevan

Director - Liver Transplant

CONSULTS AT

Jaypee Hospital

EXPEREIENCE :
12 years
SURGERIES :
NA

Treatment Starting at $1,200

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Treatment Starting at $1,200

Dr. K R Vasudevan
Dr. K R Vasudevan

Director - Liver Transplant

CONSULTS AT

Jaypee Hospital

EXPEREIENCE :
12 years
SURGERIES :
NA

Introduction

The spleen, often referred to as the "forgotten organ," plays a vital role in the human body's immune system and blood filtration processes. However, in certain medical conditions, the removal of the spleen becomes necessary, leading to a surgical procedure called splenectomy. In this blog, we will explore the purpose of splenectomy, the conditions that may warrant its need, the procedure itself, and the potential implications of living without a spleen.

Understanding the Spleen's Function

Before delving into splenectomy, let's briefly understand the significance of the spleen in the body. The spleen is a small, fist-sized organ located in the upper left abdomen, just beneath the ribcage. It serves as a filter for the blood, removing old or damaged blood cells, and plays a crucial role in fighting infections by producing white blood cells and antibodies. Additionally, the spleen stores platelets and acts as a reservoir for blood in case of an emergency, such as significant bleeding.

Indications for Splenectomy

While the spleen is essential for normal physiological functions, certain medical conditions or traumatic events may necessitate its removal. Some common indications for splenectomy include:

  • Trauma: Severe injuries to the spleen due to accidents or trauma may lead to its rupture, causing internal bleeding, and require immediate surgical intervention.
  • Spleen Disorders: Various disorders can affect the spleen's structure and function, such as hypersplenism, splenic cysts, splenic abscesses, and non-cancerous enlargements (splenomegaly).
  • Blood Disorders: Conditions like hereditary spherocytosis, thalassemia, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), and autoimmune hemolytic anemia may necessitate splenectomy if other treatments fail.
  • Certain Cancers: In some cases of lymphomas and certain blood cancers, a splenectomy may be part of the treatment plan to remove affected tissue.

The Splenectomy Procedure

Splenectomy can be performed using different techniques, depending on the underlying condition and the patient's overall health. Traditionally, the procedure was conducted as an open surgery, where a large incision was made in the abdomen to access and remove the spleen. However, advances in medical technology have enabled the development of laparoscopic splenectomy, a minimally invasive technique that involves smaller incisions and the use of a camera and specialized instruments to remove the spleen.

During the procedure, the surgeon carefully disconnects the spleen from its surrounding blood vessels and ligaments before removing it. In some cases, a partial splenectomy may be performed, preserving a portion of the spleen tissue to retain some of its vital functions.

Living Without a Spleen

While the spleen plays an essential role in the body's defense mechanisms, individuals can live a relatively normal life without it. However, living without a spleen does pose some risks and requires certain precautions to prevent complications.

  • Increased Susceptibility to Infections: Without a spleen, the body becomes more susceptible to certain bacterial infections, particularly from encapsulated organisms like Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, and Neisseria meningitidis. To minimize this risk, patients are often given vaccinations before or shortly after the surgery, and lifelong antibiotics may be recommended.
  • Blood-related Complications: As the spleen plays a role in platelet storage and blood filtration, its absence may lead to a slight increase in platelet count and a potential risk of clot formation.
  • Health Monitoring: Individuals who have undergone splenectomy should be vigilant about any signs of infection and seek prompt medical attention if they experience symptoms like fever, chills, or unexplained pain.

Conclusion

Splenectomy is a surgical procedure that involves the removal of the spleen, an organ crucial for the immune system and blood filtration. While its removal is often a necessary medical intervention in certain conditions, living without a spleen requires careful management to minimize the risks of infections and other potential complications. As with any medical decision, the need for splenectomy and the best approach should be thoroughly discussed between the patient and their healthcare team to ensure the best possible outcome for the individual's health and well-being.

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FAQs

Splenectomy may be necessary for various reasons, including traumatic injury to the spleen, certain spleen disorders, blood disorders, and specific types of cancers. It is usually considered when other treatment options have been ineffective or if the condition poses a significant risk to the individual's health.
Like any surgical procedure, splenectomy carries some risks. Potential complications include bleeding, infection, blood clot formation, damage to surrounding organs, and adverse reactions to anesthesia. However, with advancements in surgical techniques and careful patient selection, the risk of complications has been significantly reduced.
After a splenectomy, some of the spleen's functions, such as filtering blood and fighting certain infections, cannot be fully replaced. However, the liver and bone marrow can compensate for some of the lost functions, and the body's immune system can still function adequately.
The recovery period varies depending on the individual's overall health, the surgical approach used, and the reason for the splenectomy. In general, patients may need to stay in the hospital for a few days to a week after the surgery. It may take several weeks to return to normal activities, and some physical restrictions may be advised during the recovery phase.
Living without a spleen can lead to an increased risk of certain bacterial infections, particularly from encapsulated organisms. However, with proper vaccinations and preventive measures, the risk can be significantly reduced. Additionally, some individuals may experience a slight increase in platelet count, which might require monitoring.
Yes, vaccinations are usually recommended before a splenectomy to reduce the risk of certain infections. Vaccines for Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), and Neisseria meningitidis are commonly administered. The timing and specific vaccinations may vary depending on the individual's health and the surgeon's recommendations.
In some cases, a partial splenectomy, also known as a splenorrhaphy, can be performed to remove only the affected or damaged part of the spleen while preserving some of its function. However, this option depends on the underlying condition and the extent of spleen involvement. Not all patients are eligible for partial splenectomy, and the decision is made based on the surgeon's assessment and the individual's health status.

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