Enlarged Spleen

Enlarged Spleen (Splenomegaly) Summary
The spleen enlarges if it is asked to do excessive work in filtering or manufacturing blood cells, if there is abnormal blood flow to it, or if it is invaded with abnormal cells or deposits. Symptoms of an enlarged spleen may include weakness and fatigue, easy bleeding, and poor white blood cell function. Treatment of an enlarged spleen is focused toward the cause of the splenomegaly. Surgery may be required to remove the spleen.
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Enlarged spleen facts

  • The spleen is responsible for filtering the blood and removing aged and damaged cells. It is also a key part of the immune and lymph system of the body.
  • An enlarged spleen is not normal and usually is a physical finding of an underlying disease or illness.
  • Blood tests may be used to help make the diagnosis of underlying diseases that are associated with splenomegaly.
  • Ultrasound, CT, and MRI can help measure the size of the spleen and also look for associated abnormalities in the abdominal cavity.
  • The treatment for an enlarged spleen is directed to the underlying illness. Splenectomy (removal of the spleen) may be part of that treatment.

What is an enlarged spleen?

The spleen is an organ located in the upper left quadrant of the abdomen just below the diaphragm and protected under the lower left ribs.

The spleen has a couple of important functions involving blood cells within the body.

  1. It filters blood and removes old and damaged red blood cells, bacteria, and other particles as they pass through the maze of blood vessels within the spleen.
  2. It produces lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that produces antibodies and assists immune system.

The filtration system is part of the red pulp while the white pulp of the spleen contains the immune functioning cells

Normally, the spleen is a small organ about the size of a small fist or orange. Splenomegaly describes the situation where the spleen enlarges in size (spleen+megaly=enlargement).

Picture of the spleen
Picture of the spleen
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/2/2013

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Enlarged Spleen (Splenomegaly) - Cause Question: What was the cause of your enlarged spleen?
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