What you should know
Open splenectomy is surgery to take out all or part of your spleen.
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- You may have trouble breathing, or get pneumonia after an open splenectomy. Nerves, blood vessels, muscles, and other organs near the spleen may be damaged. You may bleed more than expected or get a severe or life-threatening infection. Even after surgery, your symptoms may not get better right away. If your spleen is completely removed, you will always have a higher risk for infections. You may get a blood clot in your leg or arm. This may become life-threatening.
- If left untreated, your spleen can continue to swell and block normal blood flow in your abdomen. Your spleen may continue destroying normal blood cells and damaging organs, such as your liver. The immune system cells that fight infection (lymphocytes) are also destroyed. This can make you get sick easily, and make you feel weak and dizzy. Your spleen may also burst and cause severe bleeding, which can be life-threatening.
The week before your surgery:
- Write down the correct date, time, and location of your surgery.
- Arrange a ride home. Ask a family member or friend to drive you home after your surgery or procedure. Do not drive yourself home.
- Ask your caregiver if you need to stop using aspirin or any other prescribed or over-the-counter medicine before your procedure or surgery.
- Bring your medicine bottles or a list of your medicines when you see your caregiver. Tell your caregiver if you are allergic to any medicine. Tell your caregiver if you use any herbs, food supplements, or over-the-counter medicine.
- You may need blood and urine tests before your surgery. You may also need x-rays, a CT scan, or an MRI. Talk to your caregiver about these or other tests you may need. Write down the date, time, and location for each test.
- You will need to be vaccinated against pneumococcal pneumonia before your surgery. You may also need other vaccines, such as vaccines against the flu and bacterial meningitis (brain infection). Ask your caregiver which vaccines you need.
The night before your surgery:
- You may be given medicine to help you sleep.
- Ask caregivers about directions for eating and drinking.
The day of your surgery:
- Ask your caregiver before you take any medicine on the day of your surgery. Bring a list of all the medicines you take, or your pill bottles, with you to the hospital. Caregivers will check that your medicines will not interact poorly with the medicine you need for surgery.
- Caregivers may insert an intravenous tube (IV) into your vein. A vein in the arm is usually chosen. Through the IV tube, you may be given liquids and medicine.
- An anesthesiologist will talk to you before your surgery. You may need medicine to keep you asleep or numb an area of your body during surgery. Tell caregivers if you or anyone in your family has had a problem with anesthesia in the past.
- You or a close family member will be asked to sign a legal document called a consent form. It gives caregivers permission to do the procedure or surgery. It also explains the problems that may happen, and your choices. Make sure all your questions are answered before you sign this form.
What will happen:
An incision will be made in your abdomen to reach the spleen. The blood vessels attached to your spleen will be tied off and cut. Tissues that cover and are attached to the spleen will also be cut. Your surgeon will remove the whole spleen or only the damaged parts. Bleeding blood vessels will be tied, and the other organs near the spleen will be checked. Your surgeon may place a drain (small tube) to let fluid flow out from your abdomen. The incision will be closed with sutures and covered with a bandage.
After your surgery:
You will be taken to a room to rest until you are fully awake. Caregivers will monitor you closely for any problems. Do not get out of bed until your caregiver says it is okay. When your caregiver sees that you are okay, you will be able to go home or be taken to your hospital room. The bandages covering your incision will keep the area clean and dry to prevent infection. A caregiver may remove the bandages to check your incision.
Contact a caregiver if
- You cannot make it to your surgery.
- You have a fever.
- You get a cold or the flu.
- You have questions or concerns about your surgery.
Seek Care Immediately if
- You have severe pain in your abdomen, or feel faint or weak.
- You have sudden shortness of breath or chest pain.
- Your symptoms get worse.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.