The spleen, located in the upper left side of the abdomen, helps prevent infections in the body and filters blood. While the spleen is especially helpful in fighting off infection during the first five years or so of life, its importance becomes less important as people get older. The spleen is the most commonly injured internal organ following blunt abdominal trauma. The spleen may become damaged from disease, may develop cysts or tumors, and may cause changes in the blood stream, such as anemia. Removal of the spleen, or splenectomy, may therefore be required in some children. Currently, the most common reasons to remove the spleen in children are those where the spleen is damaging red blood cells or platelets and causing anemia and/or a low platelet count, with subsequent increased risk of bleeding. Such conditions include sickle cell disease, hereditary spherocytosis, and idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP).
In most cases, this procedure can be done using minimally invasive surgery. Your child will be completely asleep using a general anesthesia. To perform a splenectomy, the pediatric surgeon inserts a laparoscope through a tiny incision in the belly. The laparoscope is equipped with a light and camera which allows the surgeon to see inside the abdomen. Two or three additional small cuts will be made around the site to pump gas inside the region and pass instruments for the removal. Gas expands the belly, giving the pediatric surgeon a clear view and added space. Children who have their spleen removed through minimally invasive surgery recover more quickly and experience a reduced hospitalization.
The International Pediatric Endosurgery Group has published guidelines for the minimally invasive treatment of spleen removal.
Read how advances in pediatric laparoscopy have positively impacted splenectomy procedures.
Learn What to Expect from Splenectomy