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Spleen enlargement, also known as splenic sequestration, is swelling or growth of the spleen. It is caused by sickle cell disease.
The spleen is an organ on the left side of the body under the ribcage. It is about the size of a fist. It helps the body:
There are 2 types: acute and chronic.
Sickle cell disease affects the red blood cells causing them to sickle or become banana shaped. The main purpose of red blood cells is to deliver oxygen to the body. Sickled red blood cells stick together and slow the flow of oxygen to the tissues.
When sickled red blood cells are trapped in the spleen, the rest of the body does not get enough oxygen. If not treated, an acute spleen can cause the body to go into shock. It is an emergency and may be life-threatening.
Symptoms of acute spleen include:
The immediate treatment for acute spleen is red blood cell transfusion. This provides much-needed oxygen to the cells and releases the sickled red blood cells trapped in the spleen. As this happens, the spleen gets smaller. The anemia goes away.
The risk for another episode of acute spleen is high. The doctor may recommend removal of the spleen if the first case was severe or if a second case occurs.
Other organs in the body perform the same function as the spleen. A person can have a healthy life without a spleen. The doctor may prescribe daily penicillin for life to help decrease the risk of infection.
Reviewed: September 2022