Skip to main content


A procedure to remove your spleen if it is damaged, diseased or enlarged

Splenectomy procedure being carried out by three surgeons in the operating theatre
A splenectomy is a procedure to remove your spleen (also known as spleen removal surgery). The procedure can be performed using a minimally invasive keyhole approach (known as laparoscopy), or as open surgery - which you have depends on the extent of damage to your spleen.

Your spleen is an organ that sits under your ribcage on the upper left side of your abdomen (tummy). It helps fight infection in your body by controlling the level of your red blood cells and platelets. When your spleen doesn't work properly, it might begin to remove healthy blood cells, sometimes resulting in a number of health issues, which we explore in more detail below.

A splenectomy is typically performed by a general surgeon, who is highly skilled in performing a wide range of surgeries - many of which are emergency surgeries. Most of these surgeries involve treating your gastrointestinal tract, which is made up of organs such as your stomach and intestine.

At Circle Health Group, we have a large network of thousands of general surgeons who can perform your splenectomy and help restore your health. Call us or book an appointment online and you could be having your initial consultation within 48 hours.

A splenectomy is performed when your spleen is not working properly, which can mean it starts removing healthy blood cells from your body and putting you at higher risk of infection. The main signs that your spleen isn't working as it should be include:

  • A painful abdominal area
  • Increased bleeding and bruising, caused by a reduced number of blood platelets
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling full quickly after eating
  • Pain behind your ribs and tenderness when you touch this area
  • Frequent infections that don't get better or keep coming back

These symptoms can be caused by several conditions that affect your spleen, including:

A damaged or ruptured spleen

Your spleen can become damaged or burst as the result of a hard blow to the area where your spleen is (your tummy) - this could be during a car accident or sporting injury, such as a rugby tackle. The key signs of a ruptured spleen are pain and tenderness in your left ribs, dizziness, and a rapid heart rate.

An enlarged spleen

This happens when your spleen becomes swollen after an infection, or as a result of a health condition such as cirrhosis or rheumatoid arthritis. The most common symptoms of an enlarged spleen are feeling full very quickly after eating, fatigue, and discomfort and tenderness behind your left ribs.

When to seek help

If you have any of the symptoms described above, you might need your spleen removed. It is important to seek medical advice quickly if you have these symptoms to ensure you get the best treatment for you as soon as possible.

The price of your surgery depends on various factors including which hospital you choose, and which consultant performs your surgery.

Our fixed-price packages include the cost of your surgery and all appropriate aftercare appointments. However, any pre-surgery diagnostic tests and your consultant's outpatient appointment consultation fee are charged separately.

Our flexible payment options help you spread the cost of your payment across a time period that suits you. We offer fixed-term monthly payment plans over one to five years with no deposit required.

If you have private health insurance, your splenectomy will usually be covered by your provider. Speak to your insurer directly to find out.

Your consultant will determine whether you need a splenectomy by performing a physical examination of your tummy. They will gently press on your tummy to check for pain and tenderness in the area where your spleen lies. They might also arrange for you to have a CT or MRI scan to look inside your tummy (these scans can diagnose conditions such as an enlarged or ruptured spleen).

Learn everything you need to know about our CT and MRI scanning facilities

Your consultant might also arrange for you to have blood tests (a full blood count) to check the function of your kidneys and the level of your platelets and red and white blood cells - these can't confirm whether there is an issue with your spleen, but they can offer a helpful picture of your overall health.

The time you'll wait between your initial consultation and surgery will differ from person to person. For example, someone who has suffered a traumatic injury and has a ruptured spleen will need to have surgery immediately, whereas someone with a less urgent condition will be able to choose a surgery date that suits their schedule.

Your surgeon will give you a good idea of timelines during your initial consultation, after which they'll put together a fixed-price treatment package based on everything you have discussed together. Once you've agreed to the costs, we can get you booked in to have your surgery without delay.

There isn't a huge amount you can do to prepare for a splenectomy.

You might be asked to avoid food and drink for up to 12 hours before having surgery. If you're taking blood-thinning medication such as ibuprofen or aspirin, you might be asked to stop taking it for a few days before having the procedure. This is to prevent excessive bleeding during the operation, which can result in complications. You might also be advised to stop smoking (if applicable) during the lead-up to surgery.

Your healthcare team will ensure you know exactly how to prepare for a splenectomy, so there won't be any unanswered questions along the way. If you do need to stop smoking for a short period before surgery, they will offer advice and support on how best to do this, as well as how to maintain your overall health and wellbeing in the run-up to surgery.

The surgery is performed under general anaesthetic, meaning you will not be awake during it. The surgery can be performed as open surgery or using a technique known as laparoscopy (keyhole surgery). The larger and more damaged your spleen is, the more likely you will have to have open surgery. This is because laparoscopy uses smaller incisions and is a less invasive technique, which is not always suitable for a larger, more swollen spleen.

A laparoscopic splenectomy

Your surgeon will begin by making four small incisions across your tummy. He or she will then insert a laparoscope through one of these incisions - this is a thin tube with a light and camera attached to one end of it. This is connected to a monitor which displays high-quality images of the inside of your tummy, so your consultant can see your spleen clearly. They will use specialist surgical tools inserted through the small incisions to remove your spleen with precision. They will then close the incisions with dissolvable stitches, which will not need to be removed by your consultant in a follow-up appointment, because they dissolve naturally within a week or two.

A laparoscopic splenectomy typically takes between three and five hours, but this depends on individual circumstances, such as the size of your spleen and the reason for your consultant removing it.

An open splenectomy

Your consultant might have to perform open surgery if your spleen has ruptured. During this procedure, they will make one large incision in the middle of your abdomen and move aside any muscle and tissue surrounding your spleen to reveal it. It can also take up to five hours to remove your spleen with open surgery, but this depends on your individual circumstances.

Your consultant and healthcare team will ensure you understand every step of a splenectomy, so you feel as prepared as possible for surgery.

You can return home within two days after a laparoscopic splenectomy, but you'll need to stay in hospital for up to six days if you have open surgery. During your time in hospital, your healthcare team will monitor your health and offer you regular pain relief (it is normal to feel sore and bruised around your tummy after surgery).

You should be able to eat and drink normally as soon as you wake up and feel ready to.

After returning home, you should take it easy for the first few weeks, making sure you take plenty of rest and maintain a healthy, balanced diet to support your immune system.

Be careful when lifting heavy objects and straining the muscles in your tummy. Your consultant will ensure you know when it is safe to begin exercising again - this differs from person to person, but you can enjoy gentle walks to stay fit as you regain strength and your incisions heal.

People usually need to wait a week before driving, but your consultant will offer you more tailored advice on this depending on your circumstances. You should also speak to your insurance company who may have specific rules about when you can get behind the wheel again.

Full recovery from a splenectomy can take up to six weeks, so be gentle with yourself and follow the instructions of your healthcare team within this timeframe.

Living without a spleen

Your spleen helps you fight off infection and maintain a strong immune system, so living without one puts you at higher risk of developing an infection. But this doesn't mean you can't live a normal and healthy life after surgery.

Post-splenectomy vaccines

To reduce your risk of infection, your doctor will recommend you have vaccines for the flu and meningococci (meningitis). They will also want to know that you have had all your routine vaccines delivered by the NHS.

Antibiotics following a splenectomy

Most people are given low-dose antibiotics to take for at least two years after surgery to prevent infections - you may even take these for the rest of your life, if your doctor recommends. These are safe to take for long periods of time and help you live infection-free.

Like any operation, spleen removal carries a small risk of complications. These include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Blood clots
  • Injury to nearby organs, such as your stomach

You can discuss these risks with your consultant, who can answer any questions you have about them and put your mind at ease.

Does a splenectomy affect life expectancy?

The surgery itself does not affect your life expectancy, but if you have your spleen removed due to trauma, other injuries might have been sustained, which can affect your life expectancy. Having no spleen can also affect your immune system, which can put you at risk of developing life-threatening infections. This is uncommon because most people take low-dose antibiotics for at least two years after surgery to prevent infections.

Does a splenectomy make you immunocompromised?

Yes, it does, but as mentioned above, there are many effective ways to manage this. Many people live normal, healthy lives following a splenectomy.

How long does a splenectomy take?

Both a laparoscopic splenectomy and open surgery can take up to five hours.

How long does it take to recover from a splenectomy?

It can take up to six weeks to fully recover from the procedure, but everyone recovers differently. Be kind and gentle with yourself as you recover at home.

When you choose to go private with Circle Health Group, you can expect:

  • Flexible appointment times to fit your schedule
  • The freedom to choose your hospital and your consultant
  • Bespoke, consultant-led treatment plans tailored to your individual needs
  • Private ensuite rooms as standard
  • Support from the same compassionate clinical team from beginning to end
  • Affordable, fixed-price packages with aftercare included
  • Flexible payment options to help spread the cost of your care

If you want to know more about a splenectomy and find out if it's the right treatment for you, book your appointment online today or call a member of our team directly.

Content reviewed by Circle in-house team in June 2023. Next review due June 2026.

  1. NHS, spleen problems and removal
  2. NHS, spleen procedures and treatment
  3. National Library of Medicine, splenectomy
  4. Cancer Research UK, surgery to remove your spleen

Specialists offering Splenectomy (spleen removal) surgery

View all specialists

{{ error }}

Find a specialist