A ruptured spleen is a medical condition which can result in severe complications or death if it is not treated in a timely fashion. This condition involves damage to the spleen which causes the organ to start leaking blood, causing the abdomen to fill with blood. Patients with ruptured spleens tend to experience severe pain which causes them to seek medical treatment.
The spleen is located in the upper left abdomen. This nonessential organ helps the body to filter blood, supporting the immune system and generating certain types of blood cells. The organ is actually tucked up under the ribcage to protect it from damage, but severe traumatic events such as car accidents, ill-placed blows in fist fights, and sports injuries may cause the spleen to rupture. Some people are at increased risk of splenic rupture because their spleens have become enlarged as a result of infection, in which case their doctors may recommend avoiding strenuous activity until the swelling is reduced.
When a patient experiences a ruptured spleen, the capsule of the spleen breaks, releasing the blood which fills the organ. The body will continue to route blood into the spleen even though it is ruptured, causing blood to leak into the abdominal cavity. Patients usually experience severe pain across their abdomens, along with a feeling of fullness. Some may develop confusion, blurry vision, and light headedness as a result of blood loss. The abdomen may also appear bruised or feel tender.
Historically, a ruptured spleen was treated with surgery to remove the offending organ, followed by medications to support the body once the spleen was removed. Today, doctors prefer to use medical imaging studies to gauge the severity of the damage, and they may opt to simply hospitalize a patient for several days and support the healing of the spleen, rather than just removing it. Blood transfusions may also be required if the patient has experienced significant blood loss as a result of a ruptured spleen.
Fortunately, splenic rupture usually causes pain which is so severe that patients seek treatment, ensuring that the ruptured spleen is identified and promptly addressed. Other severe conditions such as appendicitis can also cause extreme abdominal pain, making it important to seek immediate medical attention for persistent abdominal pain. Since surgery may be required, patients may want to go directly to the hospital, although a visit to an established doctor may allow patients to skip the wait in the emergency room and be admitted directly to the hospital by their doctors, assuming that their physicians have admitting privileges at a hospital.