Your child's spleen was removed after your child was given general anesthesia (asleep and pain-free).
If your child had open surgery, the surgeon made an incision (cut) in the middle of your child's belly. Or the incision was made on the left side of the belly just below the ribs.
If your child had laparoscopic surgery, the surgeon made 3 to 4 small cuts in your child’s belly.
What to Expect at Home
Most children recover quickly after spleen removal. Recovery from laparoscopic surgery is usually faster than recovery from open surgery.
Your child may have some of these symptoms. All of them should slowly go away:
Pain around the incisions for a few days.
Sore throat from the breathing tube. Sucking on ice chips or gargling (if your child is old enough to do these things) can help soothe the throat.
Bruising, skin redness, or pain around the cut, or cuts.
Problems taking deep breaths.
If your child's spleen was removed for a blood disorder or lymphoma, your child may need more treatment depending on the disorder.
If your child is an infant, try not to let your baby cry for too long for the first 3 to 4 weeks after surgery. Staying calm yourself will help your baby stay calm. When you lift your baby, support both the baby's head and bottom for the first 4 to 6 weeks after surgery.
Toddlers and older children will often stop any activity if they get tired. Do not press them to do more if they seem tired.
The doctor or nurse will tell you when it is okay for your child to return to school or daycare. This may be as soon as 2 to 3 weeks after surgery.
For the first 2 to 3 weeks after surgery, your child should not do any activity during which there is a chance of falling. Your child also should not go bicycling, skateboarding, roller skating, play contact sports, or lift anything heavier than 3 pounds.
Climbing stairs is okay. Swimming is okay after the strips of tape have fallen off your child’s incisions, and the doctor says it is okay.
You can give your child acetaminophen (Tylenol) for pain. The doctor may also prescribe other pain medicines to use at home if your child needs them.
Your doctor will tell you when to stop keeping your child's incisions covered. Care for the incisions as instructed. Keep the incision area clean by washing it with mild soap and water.
You may remove the incision dressings (bandages) and give your child a shower. If strips of tape or surgical glue were used to close the incision:
Cover the incision with plastic wrap before showering for the first week.
Do not try to wash off the tape or glue. They will fall off in about a week.
Your child should not soak in a bathtub or hot tub or go swimming until your doctor says it is okay.
Most people live a normal active life without a spleen, but there is always a risk of getting an infection. This is because the spleen is part of the body's immune system, helping fight infections.
Your child will be more likely to get infections without a spleen:
Risk of infection is highest in the first 2 years after surgery, or until your child is 5 or 6 years old.
Always tell your child’s doctor if your child has a fever, sore throat, headache, belly pain, or diarrhea, or an injury that breaks the skin. Most of the time, problems like these will not be serious. But, sometimes they can lead to major infections.
For the first week after surgery, check your child’s temperature every day.
Ask your child’s doctor if your child should have these vaccinations:
Flu shot (every year)
Your child may need to take antibiotics every day for a while. Tell your child’s doctor if the medicine is causing your child any problems. Do not stop giving antibiotics before checking with your child’s doctor.
These things will help prevent infections in your child:
Teach your child to wash his or her hands often with soap and water. Family members should do the same.
Get your child treated for any bites, especially dog bites, right away.
Let your child’s doctor know if your child will be traveling out of the country. Your child may need to carry extra antibiotics, take precautions against malaria, and make sure immunizations are up to date.
Tell all of your child’s health care providers (dentist, doctors, nurses, or nurse practitioners) that your child does not have a spleen.
Ask your child’s doctor or nurse about a special bracelet for your child to wear that says your child does not have a spleen.
After surgery, most babies and infants (younger than 12 to 15 months) can take as much formula or breast milk as they want. Ask your child’s doctor first if this is right for your baby. Your child’s doctor or nurse may tell you how to add extra calories to formula.
Give toddlers and older children regular, healthy foods. The doctor or nurse will tell you about any changes you should make.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your doctor or nurse if:
Your child’s temperature is above 101°F (38.3°C).
The surgical wounds are bleeding, are red or warm to the touch, or have a thick, yellow, green, or milky drainage.
Your child has pain that is not helped by pain medicines.
It is hard for your child to breathe.
Your child has a cough that does not go away.
Your child cannot drink or eat.
Your child is not as energetic as usual, is not eating, and looks ill.
Shelton J, Holzman MD. The spleen. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 57.
Price VE, Blanchette VS, Ford-Jones EL. The prevention and management of infections in children with asplenia or hyposplenia. Infect Dis Clin of North Am. 2007;21:697-710, viii-ix.
Matthew M. Cooper, MD, FACS, Medical Director, Cardiovascular Surgery, HealthEast Care System, St. Paul, MN. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.