The spleen is the biggest organ in the lymphatic system. It is an important organ for keeping bodily fluids balanced, but it is possible to live without it.
The spleen is located under the ribcage and above the stomach in the left upper quadrant of the abdominal area. Adult spleens are generally about 5 inches large and weigh about 6 ounces. Spleens are soft and purple, possessing many blood vessels.
Spleen Function in Human Body
“The spleen … serves as a blood filter; it manages the amount of red blood cells and blood storage in the body, and assists to eliminate infection,” said Jordan Knowlton, a sophisticated registered nurse practitioner at the University of Florida Health Shands Hospital. If the spleen detects possibly harmful bacteria, infections, or other microorganisms in the blood, it — in addition to the lymph nodes — creates white blood cells called lymphocytes, which function as protectors versus invaders, according to the United States National Library of Medicine. The lymphocytes produce antibodies to kill the foreign bacteria and stop infections from dispersing.
According to the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, when blood streams into the spleen, red cell should travel through narrow passages within the organ. Healthy blood cells can easily pass, however old or damaged red blood cells are broken down by big white blood cells. The spleen will conserve any beneficial elements from the old blood cells, consisting of iron, so they can be recycled in new cells. The spleen can increase in size in order to keep blood. The organ can expand or narrow, depending upon the body’s requirements. At its biggest, the spleen can hold up to a cup of reserve blood.
Some problems connected with the spleen are:
Lacerated spleen or burst spleen
According to Knowlton, spleen lacerations or ruptures “typically take place from injury (like a car accident or contact sports).” These emergency situations cause a break in the spleen’s surface and can result in “severe internal bleeding and signs of shock (fast heart rate, dizziness, pale skin, fatigue),” said Knowlton. The Mayo Clinic reported that without emergency situation care, the internal bleeding might end up being deadly.
On the continuum of spleen breakage, a laceration refers to a lower-grade extent of injury, in which just a part of the spleen is harmed. A burst spleen is the highest grade of broken spleen injury, inning accordance with HealthTap, an online network of physicians who respond to health questions.
According to Medical News Today, symptoms of a lacerated or burst spleen consist of pain or tenderness to the touch in the upper left part of the abdomen, left shoulder, and left chest wall, along with confusion and lightheadedness. If you experience any of the symptoms after a trauma, look for emergency situation medical attention right away.
Treatment alternatives depend on the condition of the injury, inning accordance with Medscape. Lower-grade lacerations may be able to heal without surgery, though the Mayo Clinic kept in mind that they will most likely need hospital stays. Higher-grade lacerations or ruptures might require surgery to repair the spleen, surgery to get rid of part of the spleen, or surgery to get rid of the spleen completely.
A bigger spleen, likewise called a splenomegaly, is a severe but normally treatable condition. “An enlarged spleen puts one at risk for rupture,” stated Knowlton. According to the Mayo Clinic, anybody can get a bigger spleen, but children struggling with mononucleosis, grownups with particular inherited metabolic disorders consisting of Gaucher’s and Neimann-Pick disease, and individuals who live or travel to malaria-endemic areas are more at risk.
Knowlton listed infection, liver diseases, cancer, and blood illness as typical causes for enlarged spleens. Inning accordance with the Mayo Clinic, specific infections and illness include:
- viral infections, such as mononucleosis
- bacterial infections
- parasitic infections, such as malaria
- metabolic conditions
- hemolytic anemia
- liver diseases, such as cirrhosis
- blood cancers and lymphomas, such as Hodgkin’s disease
- pressure on or embolism in the veins of the liver or spleen
In most cases, there are no symptoms related to an enlarged spleen, inning accordance with the University of Maryland Medical Center. Medical professionals usually discover the condition during regular physicals since they can feel enlarged spleens. When there are symptoms, they might consist of:
- pain in the upper left abdominal areas that may spread to the shoulder
- bleeding quickly
- feeling complete without eating
Normally, bigger spleens are treated by resolving the underlying problem, inning accordance with the Mayo Clinic. If the cause of the enlarged spleen can’t be figured out or if the condition is causing severe complications such as a burst spleen, doctors may suggest removing the spleen.
Cancers that come from the spleen are fairly rare, according to HealthGrades’ Better Medicine. When they do take place, they are often lymphomas, blood cancers that occur in the lymphatic system. Normally lymphomas start in other areas and invade the spleen. Inning accordance with the National Cancer Institute, adult non-Hodgkin lymphoma can have a spleen stage. This type of spleen intrusion can likewise happen with leukemia, blood cancer that comes from bone marrow. Hardly ever, other types of cancers — like lung or stomach cancers — will invade the spleen.
Spleen cancer symptoms may look like a cold or there may be pain or fullness in the upper abdomen. A bigger spleen can likewise be the result of spleen cancer.
Treatment for spleen cancer will depend upon the kind of cancer and how much it has actually spread. The National Institues of Health’s MedlinePlus lists spleen elimination as a possible treatment.
Spleen removal surgery is called a splenectomy. Knowlton said that the procedure is done in cases such as: “injury, blood disorders (idiopathic thrombocytopenia purpura (ITP), thalassemia, hemolytic anemia, sickle cell anemia), cancer (lymphoma, Hodgkin disease, leukemia), and hypersplenism to name a few.”
Spleen elimination is normally a minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery, inning accordance with the Cleveland Clinic, indicating that cosmetic surgeons make numerous small incisions and use unique surgical tools and a little camera to perform the surgery. In particular cases, a cosmetic surgeon may opt for one big cut, rather.
“You can live without a spleen due to the fact that other organs, such as the liver and lymph nodes, can take control of the duties of the spleen,” said Knowlton. Nevertheless, removing the spleen can have serious effects. “You will be more at risk to develop infections,” stated Knowlton. Often, medical professionals recommend getting vaccines, consisting of a pneumococcus vaccine, Haemophilus B vaccine, Meningococcal vaccine, and annual influenza vaccine after a splenectomy, according to University of Michican Hospitals and Health Centers. It is essential to see a doctor at the first sign of infection if you do not have a spleen.