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What Is Splenic Trauma?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 23 August 2014
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Splenic trauma is physical injury to the spleen, an organ located in the upper abdomen. People most commonly experience splenic trauma as a result of a blunt force injury like a blow or a deceleration injury in a car accident. Treatment varies, depending on the severity of the trauma and how quickly it is identified. The standard of care was once splenectomy to remove the organ, but today, patients are more likely to be held out of surgery and closely monitored with the goal of keeping the spleen intact, if possible.

The spleen is involved in the circulation of blood and certain immune functions. While it is possible to live without a spleen, this can increase susceptibility to disease and other medical problems. For this reason, preservation of the spleen is the preferred outcome in a patient with splenic trauma. Early intervention and careful evaluation can help physicians keep this organ intact.

In addition to blunt trauma to the abdomen, other causes of splenic trauma can include stabbings and shootings. This injury can also be iatrogenic in nature, caused by something a doctor does, such as nicking the spleen in surgery. Trauma to the spleen is identified with medical imaging studies like CT scans, as well as a physical examination of the patient. Information is gathered at this stage to make decisions about treatment.

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If a patient is alert and hemodynamically stable, the patient may be placed under monitoring in a trauma ward and regularly checked for signs of internal hemorrhage and other complications. Supportive therapy is provided to keep the patient in good condition, and the patient will be treated for any injuries associated with the splenic trauma. If the need for surgery is identified, as in the case of internal bleeding, a surgeon can perform surgery to try and save the spleen, or remove it as a final option.

Recovery times from splenic trauma vary. This type of injury is usually associated with other injuries, and these may be severe in nature. If a patient needs to go into surgery, this can increase recovery time as well, since anesthesia is hard on the body, especially when people were in poor health while they were in surgery. In cases where the spleen can be saved, the patient can go on to live a normal life and may not experience complications. If a splenectomy is required, the patient may need to take steps to avoid infections.

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