Located in the upper left abdomen, the spleen helps regulate the composition of the blood circulating through the body and also filters the blood of bacteria and old/damaged particles. Removal of the spleen — called splenectomy — is performed to treat a variety of diseases that affect the spleen and, in turn, the blood.

Conditions that may require splenectomy are:

  • Idiopathic thrombocytopenia purpura (IPT) – Low platelet count, leading to poor clotting
  • Hemolytic anemia – Excess breakdown of red blood cells requiring frequent transfusions
  • Genetic conditions – Spherocytosis, sickle cell disease, thalassemia
  • Lymphoma and leukemia – Cancers of the immune system
  • Splenomegaly (enlarged spleen) – Excess filtering of platelets, leading to poor clotting
  • Benign or malignant tumors – Disrupt organ function and may spread cancer cells to the rest of the body (metastasis)
  • Infarction – Clot blocks blood flow to the spleen
  • Aneurysm – Enlarged artery at risk of bursting

Compared with open surgery, laparoscopic splenectomy offers patients the following advantages:

  • Less pain after surgery
  • Shorter hospital stay
  • Faster return to eating solid foods
  • Faster return to normal activities
  • Smaller scars

Whether the spleen can be removed laparoscopically depends on several factors, including the size of the spleen. If the spleen is only slightly too large, the surgeon may try to shrink it before surgery by restricting blood flow through the main artery that supplies the spleen.

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