Splenectomy Surgery: Recovery

Recovery from abdominal surgeries like a splenectomy can be long, but it depends a lot on what technique was used in your surgery. Learn what to expect when your spleen is removed either laparoscopically or through an open procedure.

Surgery Follow-Up

After your splenectomy, you will go home in about three days if you procedure was laparoscopic. You could stay in the hospital for as long as two weeks with an open procedure. This depends a lot on your healing, pain management, and any complications you had during and after surgery—like bleeding or infection.

Your doctor will give you instructions when you go home about what complications to watch for and when to call for help. These include:

  • Persistent fever higher than 101 degree F
  • Increased abdominal swelling
  • Increased or discolored draining around your incision
  • Redness around your incision, or redness that increases
  • Pain that is not improved by your prescribed medications
  • Bleeding
  • Cough or shortness of breath
  • Chills
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Loss of appetite

Your doctor may also scheduled follow-up, outpatient appointments at the time of discharge. If you had your splenectomy to treat a chronic disease, you may need additional treatment. A splenectomy that is done for a traumatic injury or ruptured spleen doesn’t usually require additional treatment beyond post-operative checks.

Recovering at home in bed from splenectomy
Westend61 / Getty Images

Recovery Timeline

After surgery, you won’t have to wait long to return to a fairly normal life if you had a laparoscopic procedure. Your incisions will mostly likely be closed with surgical glue or dissolving stitches and don’t require special care.

If you had an open surgery, your incision will be much larger, and there may be more wound care and follow-up involved, but your return to activity should be about the same.

How soon you return to regular activities depends largely on how well you are healing, how much pain you are in, and what medications you are taking. Here are some key recovery points:

  • You can shower when you go home but should avoid soaking in a bath or swimming until your incisions are healed. You can usually take a bath in about a week.
  • You should be able to walk or go up stairs as soon as you get home. Other activities will depend on what you can tolerate. Generally, proceed with caution and stop if you are having pain.
  • Be careful when lifting heavy objects or straining your abdominal muscles. You can develop a hernia up to a year after abdominal surgery. Your surgeon will give you advice on when you can resume strenuous activities.
  • You should wait about five to seven days before you start driving. You should not drive if you are still taking any narcotic pain medications.
  • Most people return to their full level of activities about two weeks after laparoscopic surgery, and as long as six weeks after open surgery.

Coping With Recovery

During your recovery, you may become frustrated by your limitations. Be sure to eat well and exercise as tolerated. You should talk to your doctor about your support system before your surgery.

At-home help can be provided after your procedure if you live alone. If you experience serious post-surgical complications like infection, you may need to spend a brief period of time in a rehabilitation program. Your doctor will advise you on an individualized timeline and tools to help you recover.

A Word From Verywell

Recovery from abdominal surgery can be a challenge. You will experience pain and may be frustrated by your limitations as you heal. Be sure to discuss with your doctor what kind of support system you have in place before your surgery, and plan early for your return home.

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Article Sources
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  1. Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons. Spleen removal (splenectomy) surgery patient information. Updated 2015.

  2. InformedHealth.org. Hernias: Incisional hernia repair. Updated Jan. 30, 2020.

  3. Winchester Hospital. Splenectomy.