The spleen is an organ found in the upper abdominal cavity responsible for storing red blood cells and special white blood cells. It plays a vital role in immunity - helping the body identify and destroy bacteria and filtering the blood and removing damaged blood cells from the body.

Splenectomy is a surgical procedure to remove your spleen. The most common reason for splenectomy is to treat a ruptured spleen as a result of abdominal trauma; a splenectomy may also be done for other reasons such as an enlarged spleen (splenomegaly), infection, lymphoma or certain types of leukaemia, and non-cancerous cysts or tumours. Since the spleen can affect the red and white blood count in the body, when non-surgical treatments of thrombocytopenia, genetic blood disorders and other haematological conditions like hemolytic anaemia, fail a splenectomy may be needed.

It is possible to live without a spleen as the body can take over most of its functions over time. However, you will, however, be more susceptible to infection, and those without a spleen may also have a harder time recovering from an illness or injury.

Reasons for surgery

  • As treatment for cancers such as lymphocytic leukaemia, Hodgkin's lymphoma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and hairy cell leukaemia
  • To remove a ruptured spleen or enlarged spleen
  • For the treatment of noncancerous abscesses, cysts or tumours in the spleen
  • As the management of thrombocytopenia (Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura) and other haematological conditions


1Laparoscopic splenectomy
A splenectomy may be done with laparoscopic surgery or traditional open surgery, but Dr Kavin will choose the less invasive approach when possible. During the laparoscopic approach, small incisions will be made in the abdomen under general anaesthesia. A tube-like instrument with a camera will then be inserted into the abdomen and air will be inserted to inflate it for better visualisation. Several instruments are then inserted into other small incisions, and the spleen is then broken up into small pieces removed.
2Traditional splenectomy
Laparoscopy is less invasive than open surgery, involving quicker recovery periods and less post-op pain. But not everyone can have laparoscopic surgery. Those with a history of previous abdominal surgery may also have scarring, which would mean they cannot be a candidate for laparoscopic surgery. The size of the spleen is the most important determinant in deciding whether the spleen can be removed laparoscopically, so if the spleen is deemed too large or has ruptured, open surgery will be needed to remove the spleen. This involves a larger incision being made into the middle of the abdomen. Your surgeon will then move the muscle and other tissues aside to reveal your spleen and remove it.


While complications after surgery are rare, it is important that you are aware of them. Complications may include:

  • Infection
  • Pneumonia
  • Internal bleeding
  • Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis)
  • Overwhelming Post-Splenectomy Infection (OPSI) – this is a common occurrence after a splenectomy as a result of the absence of this organ to fight off infection. This risk can be avoided by giving you immunization before you have your spleen removed.

Be sure to call your physician or surgeon if you notice any signs of infection after surgery, including:

  • Fever and chills
  • Bleeding or redness that seems to be worsening around your incisions
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Intense pain


Operating from the new state-of-the-art, multi-disciplinary facility equipped with only the most advanced medical technology,



As one of only two such robots in the Western Cape, Dr Kavin operates from a hospital boasting Robotic Surgery capabilities,



As a surgeon with adept skill in minimally invasive techniques, Dr Kavin opts for laparoscopic keyhole surgery whenever possible.



Dr Bruce Kavin is a General Surgeon with particular expertise in Endocrine, Colorectal and Gastrointestinal Surgery and Surgical Oncology.

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