Enlarged Spleen (Splenomegaly)

  • Medical Author:
    Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM

    Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

  • Medical Editor: Steven Doerr, MD
    Steven Doerr, MD

    Steven Doerr, MD

    Steven Doerr, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Doerr received his undergraduate degree in Spanish from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He graduated with his Medical Degree from the University Of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, Colorado in 1998 and completed his residency training in Emergency Medicine from Denver Health Medical Center in Denver, Colorado in 2002, where he also served as Chief Resident.

  • Medical Editor: Bhupinder S. Anand, MBBS, MD, DPHIL (OXON)
    Bhupinder S. Anand, MBBS, MD, DPHIL (OXON)

    Bhupinder S. Anand, MBBS, MD, DPHIL (OXON)

    Dr. Anand received MBBS degree from Medical College Amritsar, University of Punjab. He completed his Internal Medicine residency at the Postgraduate Institute of medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, India. He was trained in the field of Gastroenterology and obtained the DPhil degree. Dr. Anand is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology.

woman with abdominal pain

What type of pain, and where is the pain located with an enlarged spleen?

  • Because of its location, should it enlarge, the spleen can irritate the diaphragm and cause hiccups and perhaps some pain in the left upper quadrant of the abdomen.
  • Because its location adjacent to the diaphragm, pain from the spleen may radiate to the back and be felt in the shoulder blade.
  • If the enlarged spleen compresses the stomach the person may feel full after eating a small amount, and therefore are unable to eat large meals.

What are other signs and symptoms of an enlarged spleen?

Often, it is not the enlarged spleen itself that causes symptoms, but rather it is the symptoms of the underlying illness that causes splenomegaly.

Where is the spleen, and what does it look like?

The spleen is located in the left upper quadrant of the abdomen, just beneath the diaphragm and next to the stomach. It has a very rich blood supply since it is responsible for filtering blood, and it is protected by the 9th, 10th, and 11th ribs. Normally, it is the size of an orange or a small fist.

The spleen has two types of tissue; the red pulp is responsible for filtering blood, while the white pulp is responsible for its immune function.

Picture of the spleen
Picture of the spleen
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/12/2015

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