Splenectomy is the surgical removal of the spleen, a small organ located on the left side of your abdomen, under the rib cage. A healthy spleen filters old or abnormal red blood cells out of the blood and identifies dangerous microorganisms such as bacteria or viruses for the immune system. In about 2 percent of people with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and some people with hairy cell leukemia, problems develop when cancer cells collect in the spleen. In these types of leukemia, the spleen can become enlarged – a condition known as splenomegaly – causing discomfort in the abdomen and dangerously low blood cell counts. Splenectomy treats spleen problems in people with leukemia by simply removing the spleen.
What does it involve?
Splenectomy is performed under general anesthesia.
Splenectomy is usually performed with a laparoscopic technique, using four small abdominal incisions through which a tiny camera and tools are inserted.
Some people are able to leave the hospital the same day a splenectomy is performed. You can expect to recover fully from splenectomy within two weeks.
Splenectomy is considered an effective and long-term treatment for splenomegaly in cases of CLL. In one study, splenectomy improved survival for people with CLL staged at Rai stage IV.
Any surgery carries risks including blood clots, blood loss, infection, breathing problems, reactions to medication, and heart attack or stroke during the surgery.
Very rarely, nearby organs such as the colon, pancreas, or stomach are damaged during splenectomy surgery.
After receiving a splenectomy, your risk for contracting infections – including serious infections – will be higher for the rest of your life. Your doctor may recommend that you receive regular vaccinations for the flu, pneumonia, or other viruses to help protect you from infection.
For more details about this treatment, visit:
CLL: Splenectomy – Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
Surgery for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia – American Cancer Society
What Does the Spleen Do? – Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh
The Role of Splenectomy in the Care and Treatment of the CLL Patient – Blood
Treatment of relapsed or refractory chronic lymphocytic leukemia – UpToDate