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The spleen is an organ located in the left portion of the abdomen. Its primary functions are to clean the blood and to aid the body in fighting against bacteria and disease. Trauma to the spleen, as well as infections affecting the organ, can result in it not being able to function properly and will typically require spleen surgery, in which the spleen is surgically removed from the body. Since the procedure is a serious, invasive surgery, it has certain risks, but there are precautions that can be taken to prevent any complications afterwards.
Spleen surgery, technically referred to as splenectomy, can be performed in two ways: open or laparoscopic. Open spleen removal is a procedure in which a surgeon makes an incision down the middle or left side of the abdomen to reach the spleen and remove it. Laparoscopic spleen removal uses a laparoscope, a long thin instrument with a camera attached at the end, which is inserted into the abdomen through a small incision. The laparoscope allows the surgeon to view the spleen and remove it without requiring the abdomen to be cut open with a large incision. Since laparoscopic spleen removal uses a smaller incision, the recovery time afterwards may be shorter and have less to complications than with an open spleen removal.
After spleen surgery, there are risks for complications, so doctors will usually encourage patients to pay careful attention to their conditions and seek immediate medical attention if they experience any symptoms out of the ordinary. One possible post-surgery complication that can arise after spleen removal is a collapsed lung. This is a condition that occurs when excessive amounts of air build up in the area surrounding the lungs. The excessive air can prevent the lungs from being able to expand properly, which can cause difficulty breathing and pain or tightness in the chest. A collapsed lung can generally be treated with the insertion of a tube in the chest to remove the excess air and to allow the lungs enough room to expand and function properly.
Another possible complication that can occur after spleen surgery is trauma or injury to organs that were in close proximity to the spleen. These organs include the stomach, the colon, which is the lower portion of the large intestine, and the pancreas, a digestive gland near the stomach. If any of these organs were injured as a result of the surgery, a person may experience pain in the area or difficulty digesting food.
Once spleen surgery is completed, a patient will typically be released from the hospital within one week. Open spleen removal tends to be more likely to have a longer hospital stay, while patients who have laparoscopic spleen removal may not have to stay for more than one day. The entire recovery after spleen surgery is usually within six weeks.