Your spleen was removed after you were given general anesthesia (asleep and pain-free).
Your surgeon made an incision (cut) in the middle of your belly or on the left side of your belly just below your ribs. If you are being treated for cancer, the surgeon probably also removed the lymph nodes in your belly.
What to Expect at Home
Recovering from open spleen removal surgery takes 4 to 8 weeks. You may have some of these symptoms as you recover:
Pain around the incision for 1 - 2 weeks. This pain should lessen each day.
Sore throat from your breathing tube. Sucking on ice chips or gargling may be soothing.
Nausea, and maybe throwing up. Your surgeon can write you a prescription for nausea medicine if you need it
Bruising or skin redness around your wound. This will go away on its own.
You should be able to eat a normal diet.
Trouble taking deep breaths
If your spleen was removed for a blood disorder or lymphoma, you may need additional treatments, depending on your medical disorder.
Plan to have someone drive you home from the hospital. Do NOT drive yourself home.
You should be able to do most of your regular activities in 4 to 8 weeks. Before that:
Do not lift anything heavier than 10 to 15 pounds until you see your doctor.
Avoid all strenuous activity. This includes heavy exercising, weightlifting, and other activities that make you breathe hard or strain.
Short walks and using stairs are okay.
Light housework is okay.
Don't push yourself too hard. Slowly increase how much you exercise.
Your doctor will prescribe pain medicines for you to use at home. If you are taking pain pills 3 or 4 times a day, try taking them at the same times each day for 3 to 4 days. They may be more effective this way.
Try getting up and moving around if you are having some pain in your belly. This may ease your pain.
Press a pillow over your incision when you cough or sneeze to ease discomfort and protect your incision.
Make sure your home is safe as you are recovering.
Change the dressing over your surgical wound once a day, or sooner if it gets wet or dirty. Your doctor will tell when you can stop keeping your wound covered. Keep the wound area clean by washing it with mild soap and water. See also: Surgical wound care
You may remove the wound dressings (bandages) and take showers if sutures (stitches), staples, or glue were used to close your skin.
If tape strips (Steri-Strips) were used to close your incision:
Cover your incision with plastic wrap before showering for the first week.
Do not try to wash off the Steri-Strips or glue. They will fall off on their own in about a week.
Do not soak in a bathtub or hot tub or go swimming until your doctor tells you it is okay.
Most people live a normal active life without a spleen, but there is always a risk of an infection.
You will be more likely to get infections after your spleen is removed.
For the first week after surgery, check your temperature every day.
Always tell your doctor if you have a fever, sore throat, headache, belly pain, or diarrhea, or an injury that breaks your skin.
Keeping up to date on your immunizations will be very important. Ask your doctor if you should have these vaccinations:
Flu shot (every year)
You may need to take antibiotics every day for some time. Do NOT just stop taking antibiotics before checking with your doctor. Some people will need to take antibiotics every day for several years after surgery.
Things you can do to help prevent infections:
Get treated for any bites, especially dog bites, right away.
Protect your skin when you are camping or hiking or doing other outdoor activities. Wear long sleeves and pants.
Tell your doctor if you plan to travel out of the country.
Tell all of your health care providers (dentist, doctors, nurses, or nurse practitioners) that you do not have a spleen.
You can even buy and wear a bracelet that will tell all health care workers that you do not have a spleen.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your doctor or nurse if:
Your temperature is above 101 °F.
Your surgical wounds are bleeding, are red or warm to the touch, or they have a thick, yellow, green, or milky drainage.
You have pain that your pain medicines are not helping.
It is hard to breathe.
You have a cough that does not go away.
You cannot drink or eat.
You develop a skin rash and feel ill.
Cadili A, de Gara C. Complications of splenectomy. American Journal of Medicine. May 2008;121(5).
Shabir Bhimji, MD, PhD, Specializing in General Surgery, Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery, Midland, TX. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.