Health Information and Tools > Patient Care Handouts >  Splenectomy: Before Your Surgery
Facebook Tweet Email Share

Main Content

Splenectomy: Before Your Surgery

Location of spleen near stomach, with detail of spleen

What is a splenectomy?

A splenectomy (say "splih-NEK-tuh-mee") is surgery to take out the spleen. You may have your spleen taken out because a disease made it get too big. Or maybe your spleen no longer works as it should. The doctor also may remove the spleen if it was damaged in an accident or injury.

Your surgery may be done through one large cut (incision). This is called open surgery. Or you may have laparoscopic surgery. To do this, the doctor puts a lighted tube, or scope, and other tools through several small cuts.

The spleen helps protect you from illness. After your spleen is gone, you may be more likely to get certain infections. So before or soon after your surgery, you will need a pneumococcal shot. You may also need other vaccinations.

Open surgery will leave a scar about 15 to 25 centimetres long on your belly. Laparoscopic surgery leaves small scars. They will fade over time.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

What happens before surgery?

Preparing for surgery

  • Talk with your doctor about any vaccines you may need before surgery. The spleen helps the body fight certain types of bacteria. After your spleen is removed, your body will be less able to fight certain serious infections.
  • Be sure you have someone to take you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
  • Understand exactly what procedure is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • If you take aspirin or some other blood thinner, ask your doctor if you should stop taking it before your surgery. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do. These medicines increase the risk of bleeding.
  • Tell your doctor ALL the medicines and natural health products you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your surgery. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the surgery and how soon to do it.
  • If you have an advance care plan, let your doctor know. Bring a copy to the hospital. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets your doctor and loved ones know your health care wishes. Doctors advise that everyone prepare these papers before any type of surgery or procedure.

Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.

What happens on the day of surgery?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your surgery may be cancelled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of surgery, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your surgery. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Do not shave the surgical site yourself.
  • Take off all jewellery and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital or surgery centre

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • The area for surgery is often marked to make sure there are no errors.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. You will be asleep during the surgery.
  • The surgery may take 2 to 4 hours.
  • You may have a tube in your nose that goes down the back of your throat into your stomach. This is called a nasogastric tube. It removes stomach fluids for the first few days after the surgery.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your surgery.
  • You become ill before the surgery (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the surgery.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter N315 in the search box to learn more about "Splenectomy: Before Your Surgery".

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.