Splenectomy: How to Prepare

Plan ahead for the best outcomes after splenectomy

A splenectomy—the surgical removal of your spleen—can be a fairly simple procedure, but it is still a major surgery that involves the removal of one of your abdominal organs. How you prepare for surgery will depend a bit on what kind of surgery you are having—open or minimally invasive. Keep reading to find out what you need to do to prepare.

Man and medical team prepares for splenectomy surgery
Fabio Cardoso / Getty Images

Location

A splenectomy can be done as an open procedure called a laparotomy, or as a minimally invasive, laparoscopic surgery. In either case, you will receive general anesthesia for the surgery. In some cases, you may go home the same day as your surgery if you had a laparoscopic procedure.

Depending on your recovery, and how soon you wake up after anesthesia, you could be admitted for a night for observation, even if you had your procedure done in an outpatient surgery unit.

If you had a laparotomy, or open procedure, there was some reason—usually the spleen is too enlarged—to perform the surgery using minimally invasive tools. In this case, a cut is made in your abdomen, and your surgery becomes more complicated. In these cases, you can expect to stay in the hospital for as long as two weeks.

What to Wear

When you arrive for your surgery, it does not matter very much what you wear. You may want to wear comfortable clothing, but you will be asked to change into a hospital gown once you arrive at the location for your surgery.

If you need corrective lenses, wear eyeglasses, and leave contact lenses at home. You will also want to bring some comfortable, loose-fitting clothing for inpatient therapy sessions or to wear home when you are discharged.

Food and Drink

Since your splenectomy will be performed under general anesthesia, you will have to have a period of time before surgery where you do not eat or drink. Your doctor will give you specific instructions, but generally, you should not eat for eight hours before surgery.

Your doctor may have you take certain regular medications before your surgery with sips of water, but you should avoid any beverages with caffeine or alcohol.

Eating or drinking before surgery can cause aspiration—where the food or liquid in your stomach is vomited or coughed up and enters your lungs. This can cause an infection called aspiration pneumonia and result in serious post-surgical complications.

If you are having emergency surgery, your medical team will work to minimize your chances of aspiration since you probably did not have the chance to abstain from eating or drinking.

Medications

There are a number of medications your doctor may want you to avoid before a splenectomy, and some they might want you to add. Medications that have a blood thinning effect—including prescription blood thinners and aspirin—and should be stopped before surgery.

If you have a medical condition that requires you to take blood thinners, you should talk to your doctor about the safest time to stop these medications before your surgery.

There are other medications or substances that your doctor may also recommend or prescribe to you before your surgery to improve your post-operative recovery. These include:

  • Vaccinations for pneumococcal, Haemophilus influenza type B, meningococcal serotypes ACWY and B at least two weeks prior to surgery
  • Antibiotics to prevent post-surgical infection
  • Blood or platelet transfusions, depending on your condition

What to Bring

The hospital will provide most of what you need while you are in the hospital for surgery. You can bring toiletries, but these will also be provided. Some things you should be sure to bring include:

  • Two forms of identification
  • Your medical insurance card or information
  • A list of your home medications
  • Eyeglasses and a case—no contact lenses
  • Dentures or hearing aids and cases to store them in
  • Comfortable clothes to wear home
  • Something to read or do while you recover

You should leave valuables like jewelry or sentimental items at home or send them home with a family member while you have surgery and during your hospital stay.

Pre-Op Lifestyle Changes

With a splenectomy, as well as with most surgeries, your doctor should advise you to stop smoking, drinking alcohol, or using any other recreational drugs. Your doctor may also suggest some other health promotion strategies such as weight loss, exercise, or physical therapy. These activities and lifestyle changes can help improve your overall health and in turn improve you post-operative recovery.

A Word From Verywell

The spleen may only be the size of your fist, but the removal of this abdominal organ is still a major surgery. Be sure to make a plan with your surgeon for how to prepare in the weeks leading up to your surgery if you need to have your spleen removed.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Mayo Clinic. Splenectomy. Updated July 14, 2020.

  2. Bona R. Elective (diagnostic or therapeutic) splenectomy. UpToDate. Updated September 2020.

  3. Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons. Spleen removal (splenectomy) surgery patient information. Updated March 1, 2015.