The spleen used to be a medical mystery even for experts. Now we know that it has a role to play in helping prevent infections. Nonetheless, the spleen is one of those organs that are not absolutely essential to human survival. Humans can live without a spleen although some people without it may become more susceptible to infection. Doctors therefore will normally not remove the spleen unless there is an absolute need to. One possible reason for the need to remove it is if it ruptures.
The most common cause of a ruptured spleen is if a person gets violently hit on the areas nearest the spleen. The spleen could get damaged if the rib cage, abdomen or left chest is hit by hard force. It is easy to imagine that injury to these areas would normally happen during rough contact sports, car accidents or other kinds of physically damaging activities and accidents. In some instances, the spleen may not immediately rupture. It may become enlarged first for some time before eventually rupturing.
People with infections that enlarge their spleens are particularly at great risk of ending up with ruptured spleens if they engage in contact activities and sports.
Sometimes, if the rupture is small, bleeding may proceed gradually and there may be no immediately apparent symptoms. This is a dangerous situation though because the first symptoms a person may feel are the signs that accompany low blood pressure and lack of oxygen to the brain. One may become dizzy, faint, confused and light headed.
In people who have large ruptures, the symptoms may be more obvious and immediate. The first obvious symptoms would be pain in the abdomen area and some tenderness. This is caused by blood leaking into the abdomen. In some cases, the pain may radiate to the left shoulder.
You should immediately tell your doctor if you have any symptoms of a ruptured spleen. Your condition could quickly become life threatening if you do not receive treatment. Although the spleen is not considered as absolutely necessary to human survival, it could kill you if too much blood from it enters the abdomen.
Treatment for a ruptured spleen will depend on the severity of a patient’s condition. If the doctor suspects that it is not an emergency situation, he may ask a patient to undergo blood and imaging tests first to clearly determine if the spleen has indeed ruptured. If the rupture is not big, a surgeon may be able to fix it without removing the entire organ.
In emergency cases, like severe accidents, where it is clear that a patient has considerable damage to the spleen, the doctor may have to remove the whole organ. This may require open surgery.
An alternative to open surgery for less urgent cases would be the removal of the spleen using a laparoscope. A thin tube with a camera is inserted through a small incision. Other tools are then inserted through other small incisions to remove the spleen.