Ruptured Spleen

What is a Ruptured Spleen?

The spleen is considered one of the most important organs in the system.  The spleen filters bacteria from the blood, stores and recycles old blood cells. It assists the immune system with fighting infection.

A Ruptured spleen is usually the result of an injury to the abdominal or chest area such as a motor vehicle accident, fall from a height or significant hit while playing contact sports.  When the spleen is ruptured, it has the potential to cause internal bleeding.

Anyone experiencing a possible injured spleen must be given immediate urgent medical attention.  Some blood related illnesses such as  hemolytic anemia  and certain types of lymphoma can also cause a Ruptured spleen.

What are the Symptoms of a Ruptured Spleen?

A mild bruise may cause no symptoms of a Ruptured spleen or only some mild tenderness of the abdominal area. Symptoms of a severely injured and bruised spleen may include:

  • Dizziness
  • Pale skin color
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Nausea
  • Pain in upper left abdominal area that radiates up to the left shoulder and left side of neck

Ruptured Spleen Causes

An individual who becomes involved in an accident with severe injuries is likely to suffer from a ruptured spleen. The damage is due to blunt force trauma to the abdomen, especially in a traffic accident. In some cases, an injury due to sports or physical assault leads to a ruptured spleen. Knife wounds can also cause a ruptured spleen although the rib cage, under which the spleen is located, acts as a protective casing from this penetrating trauma. Medical errors or complications also lead to splenic rupture. Such harm due to medical intervention is called iatrogenesis.

In rare cases, malaria, cancer malignancy, vascular hematological diseases and metabolic disorders can also cause a splenic disease (an enlargement of the spleen) leading to a ruptured spleen.

The spleen at times enlarges due to the accumulation of blood cells in it leading to its effective rupture. Numerous underlying problems, such as mononucleosis and other infections, liver disease, and blood cancers, can cause the enlargement and swelling of the spleen. Keep in mind that the spleen may rupture immediately after the abdominal trauma or within days or weeks of the injury occurring.

How is a Ruptured Spleen Treated?

If an examination and testing shows no evidence of injuries beyond a bruise, treatment will likely be rest and regular follow-ups with your healthcare provider.  Restrictions on physical activity will likely be placed on the patient.  Hospital admission may be required in order to monitor your vitals.

Surgery may be required if:

  • You have abdominal bleeding.
  • You experience symptoms of blood loss or low blood pressure.

A Ruptured spleen may leak blood slowly.  Because of this, it might take time for symptoms of blood loss to appear. Because of the significant risks of blood loss due to a ruptured spleen, you may require exploratory surgery in order to ensure the spleen is not ruptured.

Ruptured Spleen Prevention

The easiest way to prevent a ruptured spleen is to avoid activities that can lead to its rupture. If you are suffering from mononucleosis you should ensure you avoid lifting heavy objects, contact sports and activities that increase the risk of abdominal trauma for some weeks. Additionally, you must protect the spleen from blows and bumps in whatever you do.

Getting vaccines against Haemophilus influenza type b, meningococcus or pneumococcus are also recommended as a precautionary measure, just in case you have had an elective splenectomy. In children, taking antibiotics when necessary is of absolute importance. Taking these precautions may reduce the risk of a ruptured spleen.