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Bruised Spleen

What is a bruised spleen?

A bruised spleen is an injury to the spleen. The spleen is an organ in the left upper part of your abdomen. It filters bacteria from the blood, stores blood cells, and recycles old blood cells. It helps your body fight infection. The spleen also helps keep the number of blood cells and the amount of circulating blood in balance. A bruise to the spleen is called a contusion of the spleen.

When you have a possible spleen injury, it is important to get checked to make sure that the spleen has not ruptured (torn). Rupture of the spleen can cause life-threatening internal bleeding.

What is the cause?

Usually the spleen gets bruised by an injury to the belly. This can happen, for example, in a car accident. Some of the other ways it can happen are from a hit in the stomach during a fight or contact sport such as football, or by falling from a height.

What are the symptoms?

A mild bruise may cause no symptoms or only some mild tenderness of the belly. Symptoms of a severely bruised spleen may include:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Turning pale
  • Fast heart rate
  • Pain and tenderness in the left upper abdomen
  • Pain that moves up to your left shoulder

How is it diagnosed?

If you have a severe injury to your belly, you should see your healthcare provider or go to an emergency room or urgent care facility. Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and how you were injured and will examine you. Your provider will examine you and look for injuries, such as broken ribs and signs of internal bleeding.

Tests may include:

  • Ultrasound or CT scan
  • Blood tests

How is it treated?

If the physical exam and tests show no evidence of any injuries other than a bruise, the treatment is rest and follow-up with your healthcare provider. You may be admitted to the hospital to keep a close watch of your vital signs (temperature, pulse, breathing, and blood pressure).

You may need surgery if:

  • You also have bleeding in your belly.
  • You have signs of blood loss or low blood pressure.

Sometimes a ruptured spleen leaks blood slowly and it takes time for the signs of blood loss to appear. Because of the dangers of blood loss from a ruptured spleen, you may need exploratory surgery to make sure the spleen is just bruised and not ruptured, or to treat it if it is ruptured.

It may take just a couple of weeks to recover from a bruised spleen. If you need surgery, your recovery time may be longer—at least 4 to 6 weeks if your spleen has to be removed.

How can I take care of myself?

Follow your healthcare provider's instructions. Ask your provider:

  • How and when you will hear your test results
  • How long it will take to recover
  • What activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
  • How to take care of yourself at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup.

How can I help prevent a bruised spleen?

Because bruises of the spleen tend to happen in accidents, there is no easy way to prevent them. Car accidents are the main cause, so wearing your seat belt can help decrease the risk.

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Published by RelayHealth.
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