A splenectomy is the procedure done to remove the spleen. Leukemic cells can gather in the spleen in some people with CLL. When your spleen becomes enlarged because of CLL, not only can it cause discomfort, but it can sometimes lower your blood cells to dangerous levels.
Surgical removal (splenectomy) of a very enlarged spleen may improve blood cell counts and reduce the need for transfusions. This approach is used selectively for patients who have severe recurrent bouts of autoimmune diseases that target either the red blood cells (e.g., autoimmune hemolytic anemia [AIHA]) or platelets (e.g., immune thrombocytopenic purpura [ITP]). In such cases, removal of the spleen can help reduce the severity of the anemia (in AIHA) or a low platelet count (in ITP).
Your spleen is an organ located in the upper left portion of your abdomen. It contains groups of lymph nodes, and its main function is to filter old and worn-out cells from the blood. If your spleen is removed, other organs like the lymph nodes and the liver can perform most of its functions, although you'll be at higher risk of infection.
- Download or order The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's free booklet, Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia.