The Spleen

The spleen is located on the left hand side of the abdomen underneath the ribs and is usually the size of a small fist.

Functions of the Spleen

Immune System – The spleen helps the body fight infections by removing bacteria from the blood stream. In particular the spleen helps to protect people from encapsulated bacterial infections.
Filter – As blood flows through the spleen any old or damaged red blood cells are broken down.
Storage tank – The spleen stores red blood cells and platelets. In the event of significant blood loss, the spleen releases this store into the circulating bloodstream.

Hyposplenism is a spleen that is present but has reduced functioning

Reasons for hyposplenism can include:

  • Trauma
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Blood disorders
  • Cancer
  • Cysts and tumours

People with asplenia or hyposplenism are often referred as having a non-functioning spleen.
Asplenia and hyposplenism results in a lifelong risk of bacterial infection, which can possible lead to an overwhelming post splenectomy infection (OPSI).

Asplenia is the absence of the spleen

The spleen can be absent due to a surgical procedure known as a splenectomy.

Reasons for splenectomy can include:

  • Trauma
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Blood disorders
  • Cancer
  • Cysts and tumours

In some cases people are born without a spleen; this is known as congenital asplenia.