Many patients feel very worried when faced with a choice that involves their living without a spleen. Finding out more about the spleen and its role in the body will help in understanding why this is a very viable medical option.
Our spleens are located in the upper left side of the abdomen which means it is under the diaphragm and behind the stomach. It is purple in color and is described as being soft to the touch. The shape of the spleen is compared to a small catcher’s mitt. The spleen has some notches on its front edge at the top. The size of a person’s spleen varies quite a bit as does the weight but in general an average adult in good health has a spleen that is three inches wide, five inches long and about one and have inches in thickness. On average, the spleen weighs six ounces according to medical sources.
To understand what will happen when living without a spleen, you need to know what the spleen does in the body. Its primary function is to filter the blood. It identifies and sieves malformed, damaged or even old red blood cells. Spleen performs a sort of quality check on the blood as it flows through its complicated maze of vessels. Healthy blood passes through while blood cells deemed unhealthy are broken down. During the break down process the spleen saves all the useful elements of the red blood cells such as the iron before getting rid of the unwanted material.
The spleen is also useful to store blood and it plays an important role in the body’s fight against infections. When the spleen detects a bacterial or viral invasion it joins forces with the lymph nodes and creates a defensive shield. The lymphocytes that are produced as a defense mechanism are the source of antibodies which actually target the bacteria or virus that is attacking the body.
So, the spleen is an integral part of fluid circulation in the human body and it is involved with the movement of blood and lymphatic fluids. It is, therefore, also susceptible to infections, liver disease, parasites and malignancies. A spleen enlarged by any such difficulty can easily grow to be about four pounds in weight.
The spleen is important to the body but not vital which is why doctors talk about options that involve living without a spleen. Sometimes a patient will need the spleen removed because of a surgery in the abdominal region or because of direct damage or injury to the spleen itself. In such cases, the liver and lymph nodes can substitute for the spleen and fill in for some of its functions.
Living without a spleen can make a person more vulnerable to infections. The doctor is likely to advise the patient to take additional precautions and this may include taking vaccinations more regularly. The patient may also have to go on a course of oral antibiotics to diffuse the possibility of infections.
The conditions which prompt the removal of a spleen are usually serious and given the circumstances living without a spleen is an easier option than dealing with an insurmountable health crisis.
From the medieval days when the spleen was seen as the seat of emotions such as temper and anger, modern medicine has come a long way. Now we know that venting ones spleen is a turn of phrase that talks about release of tension and has nothing to do with the spleen itself. And we also know that even if we literally remove our spleen surgically, we can lead active and satisfying lives as long as we take a few normal precautions.
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