Spleen Disorders

The spleen is a sponge-like organ, located below the stomach, which can produce red blood cells and store and filter blood. Because these are functions performed primarily by other organs, the body can usually manage quite well without the spleen if it becomes diseased.

A variety of chronic illnesses, such as hereditary spherocytosis or idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, may make it necessary to remove your child's spleen. Spleen removal is called splenectomy.

Splenectomy is rarely an emergency and can be scheduled at a time that is convenient for your family. Your child may need immunizations or blood work before the operation. Please check with your child's hematologist (blood specialist) before the surgery.

Spleen disorders are diagnosed and treated by a pediatric hematologist, or blood specialist. There are many methods of diagnosis and treatment, which vary with the specific problem.

Most children can receive a minimally invasive splenectomy, using a small telescope and miniature instruments placed through Band-Aid size incisions on the abdomen. The operation takes about two to three hours.

Your child will stay in the hospital for two to three days. During hospitalization, your child will receive intravenous fluids, antibiotics and pain medication. As soon as your child feels well enough he or she will be allowed to eat, drink and take pain medication orally — usually within two to three days after surgery.

The recovery period is discussed in Splenectomy: Post-Surgery Care.

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Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital.

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UCSF Clinics & Centers

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