Enlarged Spleen (cont.)
Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
Steven Doerr, MD
Steven Doerr, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Doerr received his undergraduate degree in Spanish from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He graduated with his Medical Degree from the University Of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, Colorado in 1998 and completed his residency training in Emergency Medicine from Denver Health Medical Center in Denver, Colorado in 2002, where he also served as Chief Resident.
In this Article
- What is the spleen, and what is its function?
- What does the spleen look like, and where is it located in the body?
- What are the causes of an enlarged spleen?
- What type of pain, and where is the pain located with an enlarged spleen?
- What are other signs and symptoms of an enlarged spleen?
- How is the diagnosis of an enlarged spleen made?
- What is the treatment for an enlarged spleen?
- What complications are associated with an enlarged spleen?
- Can an enlarged spleen be prevented?
- What is the prognosis for someone with an enlarged spleen?
What is the treatment for an enlarged spleen?
Because splenomegaly is due to another underlying illness, treatment will depend upon the primary cause. In some situations, removal of the spleen (splenectomy) may be part of the treatment. For example, in hereditary spherocytosis, misshapen red blood cells are filtered from the blood stream causing anemia and an enlarged spleen. Splenectomy limits the number of red blood cells destroyed and helps treat the disease.
What complications are associated with an enlarged spleen?
Perhaps the most important worry with an enlarged spleen is the risk of injury as it grows beyond the protection of the rib cage. A minor injury may cause it to fracture and bleed. Spleen injuries are often treated by observation, but on occasion, the spleen can rupture causing life-threatening internal bleeding.
All types of blood cells may become trapped in a large spleen. Anemia (low red blood cell count) may cause weakness, fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, and chest pain. Thrombocytopenia (low platelet count) may be associated with an increased risk of bleeding. Leukopenia (low white blood cell count) may be associated with an increased risk of infection.
Should the spleen need to be removed, the risk of certain infections increases, and the patient who undergoes splenectomy will need to make certain that their immunizations are up to date, especially against pneumococcus, meningococcus and haemophilus influenzae.
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