Disorder of spleen

The spleen is a fist-sized organ located in the upper left side of the abdomen, next to the stomach and behind the left ribs. It has several supporting roles in the body, including working as a filter for blood, recycling old red blood cells and storing platelets and white blood cells.

Several issues many occur with the spleen due blood disorders, infections, liver disease, or tumours. A common sign of spleen issues is – pain. Spleen pain is usually felt as a pain behind your left ribs. It may also be tender when you touch the left rib area. Some common spleen conditions include:

  • Enlarged Spleen: Infection or injury may cause a swollen spleen. It can also become enlarged as a result of a disease such as cirrhosis, leukaemia or rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Ruptured spleen: The spleen is susceptible to injury. It can become damaged or may burst after a powerful hit to the stomach, car accident, sporting accident or fracture of the ribs. A burst spleen is life-threatening, and should be treated as an emergency. An injured spleen may burst immediately after an injury, or it can take days or even weeks after an injury, causing internal bleeding.
  • Sickle cell disease: A hereditary disease where abnormal red blood cells block the flow of blood through vessels and can lead to organ damage, including damage to the spleen. People suffering from this may get their spleen removed, and they will need vaccinations to make up for the normal spleen functions.
  • Low platelet count: An enlarged spleen may store a high number of the body’s platelets, resulting in a deficiency in the number of platelets circulating the bloodstream.

Treatment of Spleen Disorders

Doctors usually recommend a surgical spleen removal, known as splenectomy, in order to treat spleen conditions. They may choose to remove a part of the spleen only, known as partial splenectomy, or remove the entire spleen.

Usually a spleen removal operation is carried out using laparoscopy or keyhole surgery. This is a less invasive surgery where doctors make small incisions in your abdomen to pass the camera and fine instruments into the body and remove the spleen.

You should be able to eat and drink as normal soon after the surgery. After a spleen removal, doctors may recommend that you take antibiotics to prevent bacterial infections, because without a spleen, you cannot effectively clear certain bacteria from your body and will be more vulnerable to certain infections.