Splenectomy - Medical Negligence Solicitors – Compensation Claims

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Splenectomy

A splenectomy is a surgical procedure that takes out the entire spleen, which is the fist-sized organ located in the left upper quadrant of the abdomen, next to the stomach. It is an organ which is important in the immune system. It carries special white blood cells in its matrix that fight off infections and helps make red blood cells. It filters old red blood cells from the body and gets rid of them. In surgery, the whole spleen can be removed or part of the spleen can be removed in a partial splenectomy. The spleen does not grow back after it is removed, unlike the liver.

Reasons why you might need to have your spleen removed include traumatic injury to the organ. It can rupture or break open and need to be urgently removed to save your life. Such injuries come from motor vehicle accidents, falls, and abdominal trauma while playing contact sports. A splenectomy may also be necessary if you have cancer of the spleen or certain blood cell cancers. The spleen can swell out of control and can be in danger of bursting. This can happen in certain diseases and the spleen must be removed to prevent it from rupturing. In diseases like lupus and sickle cell disease, the spleen can stop functioning and can shrivel up in a condition called having an auto-splenectomy.

There is a disease called idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, which is an autoimmune disease. Antibodies attack platelets so the person can’t clot blood properly. The person is at a serious risk of bleeding. As the spleen is involved in making these autoantibodies, it makes sense to remove it in order to get rid of the problem as much as possible. Other reasons a splenectomy might be performed include the following:

  • Ovalocytosis (hereditary elliptocytosis)
  • Hereditary spherocytosis
  • Hereditary nonspherocytic hemolytic anemia
  • Thalassemia
  • Aneurysms of the splenic artery
  • Blood clot in the splenic artery or vein
  • Leukaemia
  • Certain types of lymphoma
  • Abscess or cyst of the spleen

If you have a ruptured spleen or have evidence of massive internal bleeding such as unstable vitals and low blood pressure, the doctor will do an ultrasound of the spleen and proceed with an emergency splenectomy. If there is time, the doctor will do a physical examination and run a test such as an MRI of the abdomen or CT scan of the abdomen.

A splenectomy is done under general anaesthesia. It is a procedure that can be performed open or using a laparoscope. Laparoscopic surgery is more appropriate when the situation is not an emergency. The laparoscopic surgery uses multiple small incisions that have instruments or a lighted camera in them and the surgery is done at a distance from the surgeon’s hands. Open surgery involves one big incision in the left flank area and has a better ability to see what’s going on in cases of an emergency. If you have laparoscopic surgery but there is abnormal bleeding, the doctor will have to switch to an open procedure. The doctor may have to check for extra spleens, which happens about 15 percent of the time.

There can be many complications following a splenectomy. While it is definitely possible to survive without a spleen, the spleen helps fight off infection. You are at risk of infections, such as infections with Streptococcus pneumoniae, Neisseria meningitidis and Haemophilus influenzae. Fortunately, there are immunizations for these things which should be given immediately after the splenectomy because infections can develop shortly after removing the spleen. Half the cases who get infections after a splenectomy die of their infection.

Other complications of a splenectomy include the following:

  • Blood clot in the portal vein
  • Incisional hernia
  • Incisional infection
  • Pancreatitis
  • Collapsed lung
  • Damage to internal abdominal structures

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