Definition | Causes | Risk Factors | Symptoms | Diagnosis | Treatment | Prevention

Definition

The spleen is an organ that helps filter the blood and produces white blood cells that make proteins that fight infection. A splenic rupture is a tear or split in the spleen and can lead to dangerous internal bleeding.

Spleen

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Causes

Trauma to the area is a common cause of a splenic rupture. The spleen tissue may also be damaged if there is abnormal tissue growth or infection.

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your risk of splenic rupture include:

  • Being in a motor vehicle accident
  • Playing contact sports
  • Inflammatory conditions, such as pancreatitis
  • Certain therapies and medications, such as blood thinning medications

Symptoms

Symptoms of splenic rupture may include:

  • Left shoulder pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal swelling

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Images may need to be taken of your spleen. This can be done with:

Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. This will be based on the size, extent, and severity of the laceration and the presence of other injuries. The goal when possible is to maintain all or part of the spleen. Options include:

Close Monitoring

Some spleen injuries may heal on their own with rest. Close monitoring in the hospital will most likely be needed. Blood transfusions may also be needed to replace lost blood and provide support during recovery.

Procedures

Surgery may be needed if the spleen is severely damaged. When possible the spleen will be repaired. Otherwise, a part or all of the spleen may need to be removed (splenectomy). As much of the tissue will be spared as possible because the spleen helps protect the body against bacterial infections. If possible, splenectomy should be avoided in children and the elderly, since they have weaker immune systems.

Prevention

Prevention will depend on the cause, but may include:

  • Wearing appropriate safety equipment when playing contact sports
  • Wearing a seatbelt when in a motor vehicle to help prevent accident-related chest or abdominal trauma