Splenectomy is a procedure to remove the spleen, either partially or in its entirety. Most commonly, a complete splenectomy is performed. A full open abdominal exploratory surgery (Figure 1) is typically performed, allowing for access to the full blood supply and for evaluation of other abdominal organs. However, in non-emergency situations, minimally invasive techniques (laparoscopy) have been reported in both dogs and cats to remove the spleen. Removal of the spleen can serve as a diagnostic and therapeutic endeavor. During surgical exploratory, biopsy of other organs (such as liver or lymph node) may be performed. Prior to surgery, bloodwork, blood pressure monitoring, EKG monitoring, x-rays or an abdominal ultrasound may be recommended.
A majority of patients undergoing splenectomy on an emergency basis have hemorrhage from the spleen. Prior to surgery, these patients are often stabilized with fluid support and blood products or intensive care monitoring, as necessary. Due to the critical nature of many of these patients, splenectomy is often performed by an ACVS Board-certified Surgeon. Upon removal, the spleen is often sent to a pathology lab for biopsy (histopathology) to obtain a definitive diagnosis.