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What is Splenectomy?

A splenectomy is the surgical procedure performed to remove your cat’s spleen when a serious condition resulting in damage to the spleen occurs. The spleen is a large organ of the lymphatic system located in your cat’s abdominal cavity. It is associated with immune system functioning however, it can be removed when necessary, and an animal can survive without it. Removal of the spleen may be necessary when malignant tumors are present, when blood supply to the spleen has become compromised due to twisting or torsion, or when the spleen has become enlarged due to disease or trauma. If enlarged, the spleen may occasionally interfere with the functioning of other organs and cause obstructions, for example, ischaemic obstruction of the bowel. An enlarged spleen is subject to rupture; a ruptured spleen is a life-threatening condition that requires emergency splenectomy. 

Conditions requiring removal of the spleen may be discovered as a result of exploratory surgery being conducted on the abdominal organs as a result of a gastrointestinal or abdominal disorder. In other circumstances, conditions requiring this surgery may be discovered by tests your veterinarian may perform such as radiography or abdominocentesis. Prognosis is guarded with splenectomies due to the seriousness of the conditions that precipitate it. A veterinary surgeon is required to perform a splenectomy and provide postoperative care.

Splenectomy Procedure in Cats

Splenectomy may occur during exploratory surgery, if splenic disorder is located during this procedure or may be indicated by the result of tests your veterinarian will perform such as abdominocentesis or radiographs. Abdominocentesis is performed by inserting a needle into the abdominal cavity to withdraw fluid, which is then analyzed for the presence of abnormal cells or infection. If blood is present, this may indicate splenic rupture. Radiographs including ultrasound may reveal tumors or an enlarged spleen.

If splenectomy is required due to severe trauma or severe anemia your veterinarian may need to stabilize your cat by providing blood, intravenous fluids, and oxygen prior to a splenectomy.

If possible, such as in a non-emergency procedure, your cat should be fasted prior to surgery. Your cat will be sedated, given intravenous anesthesia, a breathing tube will be inserted, and anesthesia maintained by gas. 

The area or the abdomen where the incision will be made will be shaved and surgically prepared antiseptically and with surgical drapes. Your cat's vital signs, especially blood pressure and heart functioning, will be monitored during surgery as heart arrhythmia can occur with splenic disorder. Heart conditions will be treated with medications as appropriate. An incision will be made and vascularization to the spleen litigated prior to removal of the spleen. The surgical incision will be closed, usually using dissolving sutures, or surgical staples. 

If a tumor was removed it may be sent for analysis, and if cancer is present, treatment with chemotherapy may be required post surgery. Postoperative hospitalization will be required and your veterinarian will monitor and treat your cat for anemia and heart arrhythmia if required. Pain killers will be administered to your cat post operatively. 

Efficacy of Splenectomy in Cats

Splenectomy is performed to address serious conditions of disorder in the spleen, often in life-threatening circumstances. Prognosis is guarded as a result. While the surgery does address the conditions precipitating it, blood loss or metastization of cancer can result in fatality in spite of efforts taken. Postoperatively, cats that experienced weight loss were associated with poorer outcomes and fatality more than cats that did not exhibit postoperative weight loss. While your cat can live without a spleen, the spleen’s contribution to immune system functioning is not well understood and immune system deficits may results.

Splenectomy Recovery in Cats

Hospitalization and home cage rest will be required postoperatively to assist your cat in recovery from a splenectomy. Restricting activity for 1-2 weeks to allow healing will be required. An Elizabethan collar to prevent your pet interfering with the wound will be required. Modified diet, antibiotics, and painkillers may all be recommended by your vet postoperatively to aid your cat in its recovery. If cancer was present, chemotherapy may also be necessary. Follow-up care by your veterinarian to monitor your cat's condition will be required. Close monitoring by the pet owner to ensure signs of infection and illness are addressed will be required. Monitoring your cat's dietary intake and output and energy level, and providing information to your veterinarian to help assist in determining recovery, will be important. 

Cost of Splenectomy in Cats

The cost for a splenectomy on your cat can range from $1,000-$5,000, depending on the medical condition of your cat and intervention required prior to and during the splenectomy This cost includes anesthetic, surgical procedure, and hospitalization. Blood transfusions required can add charges of up to $500 per transfusion. Chemotherapy treatment required postoperatively will be in addition to the splenectomy expense. 

Cat Splenectomy Considerations

Risks specific to a splenectomy are hemorrhaging before, during or after surgery. As the spleen is a highly vascularized area, the risk of bleeding is extremely high. An experienced veterinary surgeon will ensure that all blood vessels are adequately tied off and provide blood transfusion to address blood loss if necessary. 

Splenectomy Prevention in Cats

As ruptured or enlarged spleens can be the result of trauma, ensuring your cat has a safe environment and avoiding unsupervised outdoor activity that could result in injury from an accident will reduce the likelihood of these conditions occurring.

Monitoring your cat for signs of anemia (pale gums, exercise intolerance) and addressing with your veterinarian to receive intervention as early as possible will help prevent this condition from escalating to a point where splenectomy may be necessary to address it.