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J Surg Res. 1999 Jan;81(1):27-32.

A learning curve for laparoscopic splenectomy at an academic institution.

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Lakeside Division, The VA Chicago Health Care System, Chicago, Illinois, USA.



Laparoscopic splenectomy is emerging as the standard for treatment of benign splenic disorders. Since splenectomy is indicated relatively infrequently, issues arise concerning training of surgeons to perform laparoscopic splenectomy. Our experience with 50 laparoscopic splenic procedures is reported with emphasis on the learning curve at an academic institution.


Data were prospectively collected on 50 consecutive patients undergoing attempted or successful laparoscopic surgical procedures on the spleen at Northwestern Memorial Hospital or The Chicago Health Care System, Lakeside Division, from April 1993 to April 1998, and on 5 patients undergoing open splenectomy from April 1993 to October 1995. Outcomes including conversion rate, operative time, day feedings were tolerated, and length of hospital stay was examined and correlated with the number of attempted cases.


Laparoscopic splenectomy progressed from an operation requiring two advanced laparoscopic surgeons to one performed by carefully supervised senior residents. Success rates increased from 60% initially to greater than 95% recently. Likewise, operative time decreased significantly from 195 to 97 min, while length of stay declined from 2.5 to 1.5 days. High success rates, low operative times, and short length of stays were achieved during the last 20 patients while surgical residents were taught to perform the procedures. The reasons for improvement are multifactorial including use of the harmonic scalpel, a change to the lateral position, and increasing experience with the procedure.


Laparoscopic splenectomy is a safe and effective procedure that reduces postoperative length of hospital stay. It can be performed successfully in most patients with operative times comparable to those of open splenectomy. Moreover, the procedure can (and should) be taught to residents once they master basic and advanced laparoscopic skills.

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