What Is Traube's Space?

T. Carrier

Traube’s space is located within the human body. It rests in the upper abdominal region and several organs surround it, namely the spleen, the lungs, and the liver. Shaped like a crescent, the entirety of the space measures roughly 12 millimeters (about 0.5 inches). Doctors often consider sounds emanating from this area as part of an abdominal evaluation.

Traube's space rests in the upper abdominal region and includes the spleen, the lungs, and the liver.
Traube's space rests in the upper abdominal region and includes the spleen, the lungs, and the liver.

The borders of Traube’s space are comprised of many different body parts. The bottom part of the left lung and a portion of the left lobe of the liver create one border. In addition, the spleen and the left sixth rib also help enclose Traube’s space. The stomach constitutes the posterior border of this area, and the left portion of the stomach also somewhat enter the space. It also rests against the thorax's left side — or the anterior axilliary line — and a portion of the ribcage known as the left costal margin.

Liver enlargement may cause abnormal sounds in the Traube's space.
Liver enlargement may cause abnormal sounds in the Traube's space.

The medical community is somewhat divided on the usefulness of learning and evaluating this area. Some professionals simply view the area as an anatomical footnote that has no real practical value. This portion of the body, they contend, is not sensitive enough for useful diagnosis, nor can it truly pinpoint specific problems.

When an enlarged spleen occurs, the sound will be low, brief, and somewhat hollow when pressure is exerted on the stomach.
When an enlarged spleen occurs, the sound will be low, brief, and somewhat hollow when pressure is exerted on the stomach.

Many physicians, however, may evaluate Traube’s space as part of an abdominal examination. The region may be particularly useful in evaluating problems with the spleen, as enlargement of this organ — known as splenomegaly — impacts the sounds the stomach makes when it is palpitated. These gaseous sounds, or percussions, can be measured via Traube’s space: a dulled effect may signal a potential problem. Sometimes, however, a full stomach is the cause of the aberration.

Conditions that create an abnormal sound in Traube's space include fluid buildup in the lung cavity.
Conditions that create an abnormal sound in Traube's space include fluid buildup in the lung cavity.

A typical evaluation would involve an individual applying pressure to the stomach. Normally, this pressure creates a high-pitched sound emanating into Traube’s space. When an abnormality such as an enlarged spleen has occurred, the sound will be low, brief, and somewhat hollow.

Traube’s space is useful as an indicator of potential underlying conditions, such as liver enlargement.
Traube’s space is useful as an indicator of potential underlying conditions, such as liver enlargement.

Since Traube’s space can detect organ enlargements, it is useful as an indicator of potential underlying conditions. Splenomegaly, for example, may be caused by infections or cancer. This area can thus serve as one of the earliest indicators of a potentially harmful disease. Other conditions that may create an abnormal sound in the space include liver enlargement, fluid buildup in the lung cavity, or stomach growths.

German physician Ludwig Traube inspired the name of Traube's Space. The man gained fame in the early 19th century as a pioneer in pathophysiology. He also made great strides in the examination method of percussion.

Symptoms of an enlarged spleen can include pain on the left side.
Symptoms of an enlarged spleen can include pain on the left side.

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