Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
Splenectomy and Risk
What does the spleen do?
Your spleen helps your body resist
infection. It is in the upper left side of your abdomen, partly protected by
your lower ribs. In some people, the spleen stops working. In certain cases, a
person's spleen has to be taken out (called a splenectomy).
What are the risks if my spleen has
to be taken out?
If your spleen has to be taken out, you are more
at risk of getting severe infections. Your risk will depend in part on
your age and whether you have other diseases. Your risk of infection is
highest in the first 2 years after you have a splenectomy.
When do I need to call my
If your spleen has been taken out, you
should call your doctor at the first sign of infection, such as fever or
chills. You should also call your doctor if you have a severe sore throat,
an unexplained cough, severe abdominal pain, and headache or drowsiness.
What can I do to reduce the risk of
Talk with your doctor about how to protect
yourself from infections. Tell all your doctors, dentists and other health care
workers that you have no spleen. You should also wear a MedicAlert bracelet or
necklace from the MedicAlert emergency medical information service. You can get
one by contacting MedicAlert Foundation International. Their Web site address is
You should get vaccinated (a "shot") against
pneumococcal infection. You should get a booster shot every 3 to 5 years. Your
doctor may also want you to get 2 other shots, one to protect you against
Haemophilus infections and another to protect against meningitis.
Children who have a splenectomy might need to
take antibiotics for at least 2 years after the spleen is taken out, and
sometimes until age 21. Adults who plan to travel to remote areas
or won't have a doctor available for some other reason should have a
supply of antibiotics to take at the first sign of infection. Talk to your
doctor about which antibiotics are right for you.
If you travel to tropical countries, avoid the
risk of malaria . You are also more likely to get infections from dog bites, and
to get Babesia, an infection transmitted by deer ticks that is common in
the Cape Cod area and Nantucket Island, both in Massachusetts. Let your doctor
know if you plan to travel to these areas. Seek care immediately if you are
bitten by a dog or a deer tick.