The spleen is an organ located on the upper left part of the abdomen. It is part of the lymph system, and aids in fighting infections by filtering the blood of viruses and bacteria. It controls the amount of red blood cells, and manufactures white blood cells when it detects potentially dangerous microorganisms. The spleen helps control the amount of blood in the body, destroying old and damaged cells. It is also a reservoir for white blood cells and platelets.
- Enlarged Spleen (Splenomegaly). An enlarged spleen is not a disease, but it is serious, and treatable. An enlarged spleen is a symptom of an underlying disease process. Infections, anemia and other blood disorders, and cancer can cause the spleen to swell. Liver disease, hepatitis B and C, fatty liver and alcohol abuse are common causes of an enlarged spleen.
Symptoms of an enlarged spleen are fullness or bloating, and pain in the upper left abdomen or back. When the spleen is greatly enlarged, anorexia and gastric reflux may be symptoms. Symptoms that suggest an underlying disease include: fever, night sweats, weakness and fatigue, bruising easily and weight loss.
During a physical, the doctor will feel or palpate the abdomen to feel for an enlarged spleen. Blood tests will be ordered. Ultrasound and imaging studies are employed to determine the underlying cause. Most important is identification of the underlying cause. Treatment depends on the underlying condition. With some conditions, removing the spleen may be part of the treatment. Certain cancers may be treated with a splenectomy, after other treatments fail.
- A ruptured spleen is due to trauma. It may cause life- threatening internal bleeding, and thus requires surgery (Splenectomy), during which the entire spleen is removed. However, some lacerations of the spleen may be able to heal without surgery. But if the injury is severe, surgery may be used to remove part or all of the spleen, or to repair it.
- Serious infection can cause severe inflammation of the spleen and may require a splenectomy.
- When a cyst or tumor inside the spleen enlarges or is difficult to remove, a splenectomy may be recommended.
- Some blood disorders may be treated with a splenectomy.
A splenectomy is commonly done by laparoscopy (minimally invasive) which offers less pain, faster recovery, less hospital stays, lower risks and less time off work. But you can live without a spleen. However, when the spleen is removed, it increases the risk of infections. Thus, people without a spleen are advised to receive vaccinations for certain high risk bacterial infections that cause pneumonia, meningitis, and influenza.
The general surgeons at BASS Medical Group are board-certified and experienced in disorders of the spleen, and are Fellows of the American College of Surgeons. They are dedicated to your health and well being. Choosing the right surgeon to perform your surgery is one of the most important decisions a patient can make. We have offices all over San Francisco, and the East Bay, California to serve our patients. Find the location convenient to you. Then call BASS Medical Group to schedule a consultation and learn about our surgeons, get answers to your questions and receive professional, quality care.