Enlarged Spleen Overview
The spleen is an important organ in the immune system. It is a bean shaped
structure, located in the left upper portion of the abdominal cavity, under the
diaphragm, tucked in between the 9th and 11th ribs, in the mid-back. The spleen
typically weighs 150 grams (5.3 oz) in a typical adult and spans about 11 cm
vertically in its longest dimension.
The functions of the spleen normally include clearance of invading organisms
in the blood (bacteria) from the circulation, production of antibodies for the
immune system, and removal of abnormal blood cells.
The spleen can enlarge by performing its normal functions in response to
another medical condition. Certain infections, diseases affecting blood cells,
increased splenic blood flow, and diseases invading the spleen are some common
reasons for the spleen to enlarge. Splenomegaly is not always abnormal, and
spleen size may not necessarily say much about its function.
A normal-sized spleen cannot be palpated (felt) during the physical
examination of the abdomen, except in slender people. Enlarged spleen
(splenomegaly) may be easier to palpate during careful abdominal examination.
Approximately 2% to 5% of the American population may have a palpable or enlarged
A spleen weighing up to 500 grams (1.1 pounds) or between 11 to 20 cm (4.3 to
8 inches) in its longest
dimension is considered enlarged. Splenomegaly greater than 1000 gm (2 lb 3.3
oz) or longer
than 20 cm (8 inches) is considered severe or massive.
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