The spleen is one of those organs that may seem inconsequential. Its small, tucked alongside the stomach in the upper left portion of the abdomen, and its purpose is unknown to many. However, the spleen does serve some pretty important functions within the ecosystem of the human body.
What is the Purpose of the Spleen?
The spleen plays important roles in both immunity and blood filtration. It contains white blood cells, crucial to fighting off infection and deploys them to attack germs that make their way into the blood. It also filters the blood, removing red blood cells that are old or have become damaged, and it maintains the appropriate balance of white to red blood cells. While this may leave you wondering how anyone could ever survive without a spleen, we need look no further than the liver which can take over many of the spleen’s jobs should it become unfunctional.
Symptoms of a Damaged Spleen
There are multiple problems that can potentially arise with the spleen. Among the most common is damage following trauma such as a hard fall or car accident. These types of incidents can even lead the spleen to burst. In any case, emergency medical help is needed quickly. Signs that the spleen may have been damaged can include pain and tenderness in the upper left abdomen, lightheadedness, and pain in the left shoulder.
In addition to a spleen that has been damaged or has ruptured, the spleen may also become dangerously enlarged. This may follow an injury. However, it may also occur due to an infection or other health condition such as cirrhosis or rheumatoid arthritis. The condition does not always cause symptoms, but when it does, they may include quickly feeling full when eating and pain or discomfort behind the left ribs.
What Can You Expect from a Splenectomy?
The spleen may need to be removed if it is damaged or enlarged. This procedure is known as a splenectomy. Typically, the procedure is performed laparoscopically, using small incisions in the abdomen to access and remove the spleen. The recovery time from this procedure is relatively quick and patients may even be able to go home the same day. However, caution will still need to be used and activities like sports will need to stop for a while.
While you will most likely never encounter a problem living life without a spleen, it is important to keep in mind that your body may not be as skilled at fighting off serious infections as it once was. This is something of which patients should be particularly mindful during the time of COVID.
The team at Lane Surgery Group perform splenectomies regularly and with great results. Click below to learn more about our team and facility.