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What Is a Splenectomy?

By: PetPlace Veterinarians

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A splenectomy is the surgical removal of the spleen. This organ is located in the abdomen and can be removed without causing future illness to your pet.

What Are the Indications for Performing a Splenectomy?

A splenectomy is indicated when tumors are present on the spleen, trauma has resulted in uncontrollable bleeding, or when the spleen is severely infected. Splenectomy is also indicated in certain unresponsive immune diseases.

What Preoperative Examinations or Tests Are Needed?

Preoperative tests depend in part on the age and general health of the animal as well as the cause of the splenectomy. If the splenectomy is associated with major trauma, bleeding or tumors, extensive tests such as radiographs, blood count, serum biochemical tests, a urinalysis, and possibly an EKG may be necessary.

What Type of Anesthesia is Needed For a Splenectomy?

As in a human patient, the procedure in dogs and cats requires general anesthesia to induce complete unconsciousness and relaxation. In the usual case, the pet will receive a pre-anesthetic sedative-analgesic drug to help him relax, a brief intravenous anesthetic to allow placement of a breathing tube in the windpipe, and subsequently inhalation (gas) anesthesia in oxygen during the actual surgery.

How Is the Splenectomy Operation Done?

Following anesthesia, the pet is placed on a surgical table, lying on his back. The hair is clipped over the middle of the abdomen and the skin is scrubbed with surgical soap to disinfect the area. A sterile drape is placed over the surgical site. A scalpel is used to incise the skin at the middle of the abdomen, and then the abdominal cavity is opened. The spleen is identified and the vessels supplying the spleen are ligated, or tied off. The spleen is then removed. The abdominal incision is then closed with one or two layers of self-dissolving sutures (stitches). The outer layer of skin is closed with sutures or surgical staples; these need to be removed in about 10 to 14 days.

How Long Does the Splenectomy Take to Perform?

The procedure takes about 45 minutes to an hour to perform in most cases, including the needed time for preparation and anesthesia.

What Are the Risks and Complications of a Splenectomy Operation?

The overall risk of this surgery is moderate. Animals in need of a splenectomy are typically ill and may even have internal bleeding. The major risks associated with a splenectomy are those of general anesthesia, hemorrhage, postoperative infection and wound breakdown (dehiscence) over the incision. Overall complication rate is moderate, but serious complications can result in death or the need for additional surgery.

What Is the Typical Postoperative Care?

Postoperative medication should be given to relieve pain and can be effectively eliminated with safe and effective pain medicines. The animal is frequently checked for bleeding and packed cell volumes are performed to determine if the pet is becoming anemic. The home care requires reduced activity until the stitches are removed in 10 to 14 days. The suture line should be inspected daily by the pet owner for signs of redness, discharge, swelling, or pain.

How Long Is the Hospital Stay?

The typical stay following a splenectomy varies based the reason for the operation. Some pets are hospitalized for two to three days and others may be hospitalized for up to a week.

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