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Medical Care After a Splenectomy

written by: R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 8/22/2009

This article focuses on the medical care a patient will need after having a splenectomy.

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    A splenectomy is a surgical procedure used to remove the spleen. The spleen in an organ responsible for filtering the blood to remove parasites, bacteria and other organisms that may cause an infection. The spleen also removes damaged and old blood cells and stores and makes blood. A splenectomy may be performed for many reasons such as liver disease, certain types of cancer, certain blood disorders or trauma. After this surgical procedure a patient will stay in the hospital for two to four days and will receive their medical care there. However, they will still need to be careful and practice after-care once they return home in order to avoid any post-surgical complications.

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    Possible After-Surgery Complications

    After this surgical procedure is complete, the patient may experience certain complications. These complications are greater if they do not receive the proper medical after care for their splenectomy. These complications can include infection, collapsed lung, excess bleeding, pulmonary embolism, incisional hernia, pancreatitis, pneumonia and deep vein blood clots.

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    Hygiene

    Practicing proper and careful hygiene is a very important part of medical care for a splenectomy. Patients are permitted to shower, but they must avoid baths until all of their surgery-related incisions have completely healed. They must also make sure that all dressings are changed per their doctors order. Any dressings that become wet or soiled must be immediately replaced with clean and dry ones.

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    Medications

    All patients will most likely receive some type of pain medication to help alleviate their post-surgical pain. Any prescribed medications should be taken exactly as prescribed to avoid any adverse reactions. If the patient's medication is not helping to alleviate their pain, they should consult their physician and never take more than prescribed. They should also not take any other pain medication unless directed by their doctor. If a medication is not prescribed the patient should talk to their doctor about taking a non-aspirin over-the-counter medication if needed for pain. Aspirin-containing products need to be avoided.

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    Activity

    Those who have had this surgical procedure will need to take it easy for approximately six weeks and should not resume their normal activities until their doctor tells them to. Activities such as heavy lifting, prolonged standing, exercise and other similar activities need to be avoided for about six weeks. Patients should also avoid driving until their doctor tells them they can drive.

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    Keeping an Eye Out

    Patients who have had this surgical procedure need to keep an eye out for any complications. They need to monitor how well the incision is healing and check it regularly for signs of infection. If any complication is suspected they need to consult their physician or if it seems serious get medical attention as soon as possible. Some serious complications that warrant immediate medical attention include fever, chills, new or unexplained symptoms, severe nausea or vomiting, cough, chest pain, shortness of breath, and discharge, redness, excessive bleeding, increased pain or redness on, in or around the incision.

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    References

    Third Age. (2008). Splenectomy. Retrieved on August 19, 2009 from Website: http://www.thirdage.com/health-wellness/splenectomy