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Surgery to Treat CML

It is very rare to have surgery for chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). The goal is not to cure CML, but to improve symptoms. You might have surgery to remove a swollen spleen. The procedure is called a splenectomy. Your doctor may recommend a splenectomy if you have 1 or both of these problems:

  • Your spleen has become so swollen from leukemia that it’s pressing on other organs, such as your stomach. In addition, radiation treatment to reduce swelling of the spleen didn't help.

  • Your spleen has become so swollen from leukemia that it’s removing too many red blood cells and platelets from circulation. It’s your spleen’s job to remove worn-out blood cells, but leukemia can make your spleen overactive. A splenectomy can help raise your red blood cell and platelet counts.

What happens during surgery for CML

A surgeon performs a splenectomy in a hospital. Leading up to your surgery, your doctor makes sure that any infections you have are cleared up and that you have received any needed vaccinations. You may check into the hospital the day before your surgery or the day of your surgery depending on the type of procedure. You will meet with your surgeon and the doctor who is handling your anesthesia called an anesthesiologist.

The day of your surgery, you will probably be told not to eat from early morning up until the time of your operation. The anesthesiologist gives you drugs to make you go to sleep.

The surgery may be done through several small incisions using special long, thin instruments and a tiny video camera. This operation, called a laparoscopic splenectomy, may result in a quicker recovery. In some cases, the small incisions may not be possible. If the spleen is very large, the surgeon can instead do what is called an open splenectomy, making a larger cut in the abdomen. 

What to expect after surgery for CML

You are probably going to stay in the hospital for a few days after surgery. During this time, and after you leave the hospital, you need to be careful to avoid infection. That's because your spleen is an organ that helps protect you from infection. Your doctor will probably recommend that you get vaccines to help prevent certain bacterial infections.