Background: This study aimed to review our 25-year experience with pediatric laparoscopic splenectomy (LS) and describe tips, tricks, and technical considerations.
Methods: The records of 121 children, undergoing minimally invasive splenectomy in the last 25 years (1996-2021), were retrospectively reviewed. Median patient age was 10.2 years (range 7-17). The patients were grouped according to the period: G1 (1996-2005) included 31 patients undergoing open splenectomy using left subcostal minilaparotomy (G1a) and 28 receiving LS using supine position (G1b); G2 (2006-2021) included 62 patients undergoing LS using lateral decubitus. A five-trocar technique was adopted in G1b, with the spleen removed through a Pfannenstiel incision. In G2, we preferred to use lateral decubitus, 10-mm 30° optic, only four trocars, and sealing devices. In such cases, the spleen was placed in an endobag, finger-fragmented, and extracted through the umbilicus. Furthermore, indocyanine green (ICG) fluorescence was used in the last 4 G2 patients to clearly identify the vascular anatomy.
Results: The median operative time was 65 minutes in G1a, 125 in G1b, and 95 in G2. Complications occurred intraoperatively in 14 cases (11.5%): 5 bleedings during dissection (G1b), 4 endobag breakages during spleen removal (G2); 3 spleen capsule breakages during removal (G1a); and 2 instrumentation failures (G2). No conversions to open occurred. Median hospital stay was 6 days in G1a and 4 days in G1b and G2.
Conclusions: LS is a standardized and effective procedure in children and is preferable to mini- or conventional open splenectomy. Our 25-year experience showed that major complications may occur even in expert hands, mainly during hilar dissection or spleen extraction. Technically, sealing devices and ICG fluorescence were helpful to perform a safer and faster procedure. We believe that lateral decubitus and 30° optic should be considered technical key points to provide excellent organ exposure and easier dissection of hilar structures.