Can You Live Without a Spleen?

By Michael Baker

The spleen performs functions critical to preventing infections, but sometimes injury or disease damages the organ to the point where doctors must remove it. People can live without their spleen, although it leaves them at a higher risk of infections.

Medical Imaging - Male Organs Spleen

The spleen performs functions critical to preventing infections, but sometimes injury or disease damages the organ to the point where doctors must remove it. People can live without their spleen, although it leaves them at a higher risk of infections.

Identification

Human spleen isolated.

The spleen is a fist-sized, dark red organ located between the stomach and the diaphragm. Its primary functions include filtering the blood and breaking down older red blood cells.

Considerations

Car accident.

Doctors might remove the spleen in case of severe trauma to the organ, such as from a car accident, or if other medical conditions such as cancer or blood disease have damaged it. Spleens can usually recover on their own or be repaired surgically after light or moderate trauma.

Types

Surgeons operating.

Doctors usually perform splenectomies, removal of the spleen, using laparoscopic technology requiring only a small incision, although they might use open surgery in emergency situations. Either way, it is a major surgical procedure requiring several weeks of recovery.

Effects

Citrus and vitamins enhance the immune system.

Losing the spleen weakens the body's immune system. Doctors will recommend immediate vaccines, particularly a pneumonia vaccine, and an antibiotic regimen to protect the body during recovery.

Outlook

3D illustration of human internal organs.

Nearby organs such as the liver take over the functions of the spleen, so most patients recover to a normal lifestyle. Even so, splenectomy patients should be extra wary of infections, receiving annual flu shots, informing future doctors and dentists of the splenectomy and, for children who have had the procedure, continuing an antibiotic regimen.

References

About the Author

Michael Baker has worked as a full-time journalist since 2002 and currently serves as editor for several travel-industry trade publications in New York. He previously was a business reporter for "The Press of Atlantic City" in New Jersey and "The [Brazoria County] Facts" in Freeport, Texas. Baker holds a Master of Science in journalism from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn.

Related Articles

More Related