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What Is a Ruptured Spleen?

Blood transfusions may be required if the patient has experienced significant blood loss as a result of a ruptured spleen.
A ruptured spleen causes severe abdominal pain.
A severely damaged spleen may require emergency surgery.
Events such as car accidents can cause a ruptured spleen.
The spleen is a nonessential organ in the upper left abdomen.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 21 November 2014
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A ruptured spleen is a medical condition which can result in severe complications or death if it is not treated in a timely fashion. This condition involves damage to the spleen which causes the organ to start leaking blood, causing the abdomen to fill with blood. Patients with ruptured spleens tend to experience severe pain which causes them to seek medical treatment.

The spleen is located in the upper left abdomen. This nonessential organ helps the body to filter blood, supporting the immune system and generating certain types of blood cells. The organ is actually tucked up under the ribcage to protect it from damage, but severe traumatic events such as car accidents, ill-placed blows in fist fights, and sports injuries may cause the spleen to rupture. Some people are at increased risk of splenic rupture because their spleens have become enlarged as a result of infection, in which case their doctors may recommend avoiding strenuous activity until the swelling is reduced.

When a patient experiences a ruptured spleen, the capsule of the spleen breaks, releasing the blood which fills the organ. The body will continue to route blood into the spleen even though it is ruptured, causing blood to leak into the abdominal cavity. Patients usually experience severe pain across their abdomens, along with a feeling of fullness. Some may develop confusion, blurry vision, and light headedness as a result of blood loss. The abdomen may also appear bruised or feel tender.

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Historically, a ruptured spleen was treated with surgery to remove the offending organ, followed by medications to support the body once the spleen was removed. Today, doctors prefer to use medical imaging studies to gauge the severity of the damage, and they may opt to simply hospitalize a patient for several days and support the healing of the spleen, rather than just removing it. Blood transfusions may also be required if the patient has experienced significant blood loss as a result of a ruptured spleen.

Fortunately, splenic rupture usually causes pain which is so severe that patients seek treatment, ensuring that the ruptured spleen is identified and promptly addressed. Other severe conditions such as appendicitis can also cause extreme abdominal pain, making it important to seek immediate medical attention for persistent abdominal pain. Since surgery may be required, patients may want to go directly to the hospital, although a visit to an established doctor may allow patients to skip the wait in the emergency room and be admitted directly to the hospital by their doctors, assuming that their physicians have admitting privileges at a hospital.

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fwmrachael
Post 4

A ruptured spleen is life threatening. It's good to know the symptoms.

bluedolphin
Post 3

@feruze-- I completely agree with you. But what if the rupture is caused by infection leading to enlarged spleen? If the person is not even aware that there is an infection, they might not realize the cause even if they were having symptoms of ruptured spleen.

It's easier to identify a ruptured spleen when there has been an accident. My friend's son recently suffered from it when he slipped off a slope while hiking. He was complaining of pain around his abdomen and dizziness so his parents took him to the hospital.

They took a scan and found the rupture in his spleen. He was placed in the intensive care unit for that night. He was also very lucky because the bleeding stopped on its own and he didn't have to have surgery. He is now home and is not allowed to move around much for several months while his spleen heals.

I think diagnosis might be harder when the cause is something else like infection and treatment could be delayed too. But I'm not sure, does anyone know?

bear78
Post 2

@burcidi-- That's right. A ruptured spleen is very serious and it can cause death. I think the accumulation of blood in the abdomen puts the person into shock and eventually death. Your dad is definitely very lucky to have avoided that.

Like all injuries, the earlier someone realizes that they may have a ruptured spleen, the better. The problem is that, initially, the symptoms of a ruptured spleen don't appear serious enough to make someone rush to the hospital. It's not uncommon for people to think that they have a minor injury that will fix itself. And by the time they do realize it's more serious, it might be too late.

That's why it's better not to take chances and go to the hospital to get checked out if you had a blow to the spleen in an accident. So, if you get a hard blow to your upper abdomen or the left side of the chest, there is a chance you might have ruptured your spleen.

burcidi
Post 1

My dad's spleen was removed last month after the doctor discovered that he had a large hemangioma (a type of blood vessel mass). He was undergoing examination for a completely different issue when one of his scans showed the mass. It was almost as large as the spleen itself and the doctor ordered an emergency surgery to remove the spleen. He said that if they don't remove it, the spleen will rupture very soon causing many other complications.

Now that I've read this article, I'm so happy that the problem was caught early on and my dad's spleen was removed before it ruptured. He might have even died from blood loss if that had happened. As far as I know, a spleen that has a hemangioma is removed anyway, so we are not at a loss either way.

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