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.

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What is the treatment for an enlarged spleen?

Because splenomegaly is due to an underlying illness, treatment will depend upon the primary cause. In some situations, removal of the spleen (splenectomy) may be part of the treatment. For example, in hereditary spherocytosis, misshapen red blood cells are filtered from the blood stream causing anemia and an enlarged spleen. Splenectomy limits the number of red blood cells destroyed and helps treat the disease.

What complications are associated with an enlarged spleen?

Perhaps the most important worry with an enlarged spleen is the risk of injury as it grows beyond the protection of the rib cage. A minor injury may cause it to rupture and bleed. Spleen injuries are often treated by observation, but on occasion, the spleen can rupture causing life-threatening internal bleeding requiring surgery for to remove the spleen. This is the reason that teenagers and young adults diagnosed with infectious mononucleosis need to wait until the spleen returns to its normal size, and is protected by the rib cage, before participating in  activities where the enlarged spleen could be damaged.

All types of blood cells may become trapped in a large spleen. Anemia (low red blood cell count) may cause

Thrombocytopenia (low platelet count) may be associated with an increased risk of bleeding.

Leukopenia (low white blood cell count) may be associated with an increased risk of infection.

Should the spleen need to be removed surgically (splenectomy), the risk of certain infections increases, and the patient will need to make certain that their immunizations are up to date, especially against pneumococcus, meningococcus and haemophilus influenzae.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/12/2015
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