The Car Crash Victim’s Guide To Ruptured Spleens

If you have been diagnosed with a ruptured spleen after a car accident, you probably have many questions.

  • What is a spleen and what does it do?
  • How does a ruptured spleen occur?
  • Is this serious?
  • Will I need surgery?
  • Will the injury affect how I live my life?
  • Will I have to miss work?
  • When will I get better?

What Is the Spleen?

The spleen is a soft, spongy organ that is just about the size of your clenched fist. It is located on the left side of your body just under the ribcage. It is an important part of the circulatory system that helps you to fight infection.

Functions of the Spleen:

  • Filtering out infections from the blood,
  • Creating some types of white blood cells (the blood cells that fight infection),
  • Removing old or damaged platelets and red blood cells from the blood stream,
  • Storing extra blood until it is needed,

How does a ruptured spleen occur?

A ruptured spleen refers to an injury in which the spleen develops a break or rupture in its surface. Because of its location just under the rib cage, ruptured spleens often result from chest trauma. When the chest or stomach sustains a severe blow in a car accident, the spleen or its outer covering may be torn. This causes blood to be released into the abdomen.

Symptoms of Spleen Injuries:

  • Pain and tenderness in the left upper abdomen or in left shoulder
  • Severe stomach pain or localized back pain
  • Bruising of the upper abdomen
  • Low blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Blurred vision
  • Pail skin
  • Light-headedness or dizziness
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Loss of consciousness

Is a Ruptured Spleen a Serious Injury?

Minor tears to the spleen may heal themselves. Larger injuries can cause potentially fatal hemorrhaging. If blood collects in the spleen or under its covering, it can form a hematoma that may rupture days, or even months, after the injury. Without emergency treatment, a ruptured spleen can cause life-threatening internal bleeding.

How Is a Ruptured Spleen Treated?

In some cases, the damage is minimal and a ruptured spleen can be treated without surgery. The injury victim will need to spend several days in the hospital. He may receive several blood transfusions and will need to rest at home afterwards. More serious injuries may require immediate surgery to prevent life-threatening bleeding. If there is minor damage, the spleen may be repaired. In many cases, it is removed. A spleen removal is called a splenectomy.

How Does a Splenectomy Affect the Injury Victim’s Life?

The spleen is an important part of the immune system. After a splenectomy, an injury victim will be more likely to catch serious infections. He will need to be vaccinated for common diseases such as the flu and pneumonia. He may also need to take preventive antibiotics to prevent infections, but most people are able to live active lives after a splenectomy.

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