While the spleen is not a vital organ, it does serve some fairly important functions. The spleen aids your body in fighting off infection and filters undesirable material, such as blood cells that are old or damaged. It also produces red blood cells and certain types of white blood cells.
Many people tend to be unaware of the functions of the spleen and only become mindful of the organ when it becomes a medical issue. The spleen is located on the left side of your body, just beneath your rib cage. Unfortunately, this is a location that is prone to injury. Athletes who participate in team sports are at a higher risk, but an injury could also come about through a physical argument or an accident, such as a car collision. In such cases, your spleen is at risk of being ruptured, which might result in a significant amount of blood being released into your abdominal cavity. A rupture may take place immediately after the injury, but it can take days or even weeks.
The spleen may also become enlarged due to various medical conditions, such as liver disease, cancers of the blood, mononucleosis and other bodily infections. An enlarged spleen is more likely to rupture, even with only minimal trauma to the area. A ruptured spleen is actually considered the most significant complication of mononucleosis.
A small rupture may be surgically repairable, but it is more common for the entire spleen to be removed. The body can survive without the spleen as the liver and lymphatic system are equipped to take over the organ's functions. However, recent research has shown that patients who have had their spleens removed run a higher risk of certain infections.
Indications of a ruptured spleen are pain in the upper left portion of your abdomen and symptoms associated with low blood pressure, such as lightheadedness, confusion, blurred vision and fainting.