The spleen is an organ located in the left upper abdomen. It is highly vascular, meaning it holds a high volume of blood. A spleen injury may occur from blunt force to the abdomen, such as from playing sports or a motor vehicle accident, or as a result of abdominal surgery or infection. A tear or laceration to the spleen may result in a life-threatening amount of blood loss. Symptoms of a lacerated spleen are a medical emergency, according to MayoClinic.com
Spleen laceration causes blood to spill into the abdominal cavity. A person with a laceration or tear of the spleen will experience abdominal pain in the left upper quadrant, or around or beneath the left ribs. Palpation of the left abdomen may cause extreme pain and tenderness. "Pediatric Sports Medicine for Primary Care" advises that pain will develop rapidly if the spleen has been torn or ruptured from blunt trauma to the abdomen. Pain progressively becomes worse instead of getting better. Abdominal distention, or swelling of the belly, may also occur as blood enters the abdominal cavity.
Symptoms of Shock
The "Journal of Athletic Training" states that the spleen holds one unit of the body's total 12 units of blood. Rapid blood loss can occur from a lacerated spleen, depending on the severity and location of the spleen injury. Uncontrolled or rapid blood loss inside the abdominal cavity will result in hypovolemic shock, or shock due to low blood volume.
A person in hypovolemic shock will experience a fast pulse and low blood pressure. He may have pale, sweaty skin, and seem disoriented or confused. Breathing may seem deep and rapid. Symptoms of hypovolemic shock after spleen laceration may develop rapidly.
"Advanced Surgical Practice" advises that in severe spleen tears, immediate death may occur, though this is extremely rare. A person with a severe spleen tear or injury may bleed rapidly into the abdominal cavity and become unconscious within minutes after injury. Death may occur before medical intervention can provide help.
Pressure inside the abdomen after a spleen injury may cause the feeling of needing to defecate; however, stool may not be passed. A person may also feel pain radiating to other location of her body besides the left abdomen, such as pain in the left shoulder, back or neck.
- Mayo Clinic: Spleen Injury
- “Journal of Athletic Training”; Splenic Artery Avulsion in a High School Football Player: A case report; David Ralston, et al.; 2004
- “Pediatric Sports Medicine for Primary Care”; Richard Birrer, et al.; 2002
- “Advanced Surgical Practice”; Aljafri Majid, et al.; 2003
- MedlinePlus: Hypovolemic Shock