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After surgery

Find out how you might feel after surgery to remove your spleen.

Tubes and drains

When you wake up, you'll have several tubes in you. This can be frightening, so it helps to know what they're for. 

You are likely to have a drip into your arm (intravenous infusion) to give you fluids until you are eating and drinking again. You might also have:

  • a tube into your bladder (catheter) to drain urine
  • a fine tube (called a wound drain) near the wound to drain away any fluid that collects and help it to heal
  • a tube down your nose into your stomach (nasogastric tube) for 24 hours, to drain fluids and stop you feeling sick

You may also have an oxygen mask on. 

Electronic pumps may control any medicines you have through your drip. 

Painkillers

It’s normal to have pain for the first week or so. You have painkillers to help.

Tell your doctor or nurse as soon as you feel any pain. They need your help to find the right type and dose of painkiller for you. Painkillers work best when you take them regularly.

Immediately after surgery you might have painkillers through a drip into the bloodstream that you control. This is called patient controlled analgesia (PCA).

Or you might have painkillers through a small thin tube that is put into your back. This tube is connected to a pump that gives you a constant dose of painkiller. This is called an epidural.

You get painkillers to take home. Follow the instructions your nurse gives you about how often and when to take them. Contact your doctor if you still have pain or if it gets worse.

Your wound

The drainage tubes connect to containers that collect the fluid draining from the wound. Your nurse takes out the drainage tubes when there is no more fluid draining. This is normally after a couple of days.

It only takes a minute to gently pull the tubes out and you might have some discomfort during that time. Your stitches are taken out about two weeks after your operation. You go back to the hospital to have this done, or go to your GP surgery.

Your nurse lets you know how to look after your wound when you are at home. 

Eating and drinking

Your nurse takes your drip out as soon as you can start eating and drinking again. This may take a couple of days. Your doctor listens to your stomach (abdomen) with a stethoscope. As soon as the doctor can hear your bowel working again, you start taking sips of water.

Gradually you work up to eating and drinking normally.

Getting up

The nurses help you get up and move around gently as soon as possible. This helps you to get better and reduces the risk of complications such as chest infections or blood clots.

Going home

You normally go home after about a week. You should be able to go home sooner if you have had laparoscopic surgery.

Everyone recovers at their own pace and your doctors make sure you are ready before you go home.

Excercise

Exercise is good for you when you are recovering from surgery. But it is best not to overdo it.

Start with walking slowly for short distances. Gradually build up the amount you walk over days and weeks. It can help you to feel better and recover more quickly.

Follow up

You’ll have follow up appointments to check your recovery and sort out any problems. They‘re also your opportunity to raise any concerns you have about your progress.

You usually see your surgical team about 6 weeks after you go home.

Your doctor will let you know at your follow up appointment when they think you might be able to go back to work or start driving again.

Helping protect your immune system

The spleen is part of your immune system and helps to fight infection. Without a spleen you will be more at risk of infection. To help prevent infection in the future, you will need to have some vaccinations before, or just after, the operation. It is best to have these 2 weeks before having your spleen removed

You will need to take antibiotics for the rest of your life because of these changes to your immune system.

In case of a medical emergency you should carry a card saying your spleen has been removed. Before you go abroad, talk to your doctor. They might advise extra vaccinations because your immunity is reduced.
Last reviewed: 
19 Dec 2017
  • Principles and practice of oncology (10th edition)
    VT De Vita, S Hellman and SA Rosenberg 
    Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins, 2015

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