Spleen (storage site for platelets)

The spleen is a storage place for platelets in the human body. Platelets ensure that the blood clots in the event of an injury. Most platelets simply circulate in the bloodstream. Yet about 30 percent is retained in the spleen. In the event of an emergency, the spleen receives a signal through a shot of adrenaline, which causes the platelets to enter the blood.


The spleen is located under the left lung in the abdominal cavity. The spleen is spongy soft and slightly purple in color. It is about the size of a fist and weighs about 200 grams. The spleen is responsible for keeping the blood clean. However, one can also live without a spleen. As a person ages, the spleen becomes smaller and lighter. The spleen is the only organ that recognizes pneumococci and can also produce antibodies against them. This can help prevent blood poisoning. The spleen contains two types of tissue. These tissues are officially called red pulp and white pulp. The red pulp removes waste from the blood and the white pulp helps eliminate invaders such as viruses and bacteria.


Some disorders of the spleen may include the following:

  • If the spleen ruptures, an enormous amount of blood can be released into the abdominal cavity; this bleeding is usually fatal. There is only a chance of survival if the spleen is surgically removed.
  • In some forms of anemia, the spleen works too quickly; This can be remedied by removing the spleen.
  • Carry-over of blood clots can cause a splenic infarction, which, if it is not too large, often goes unnoticed.
  • Some children are born without a spleen. In these children, the immune system in particular is very disturbed. To prevent problems, antibiotics against bacteria are needed, and vaccinations against pneumococci in particular.
  • A spleen can also enlarge. When this happens, capacity increases and less blood remains for normal circulation. This in turn can lead to anemia, but also to a reduced immune system. Because the spleen becomes larger, it holds more blood cells, allowing the spleen to continue growing. An enlarged spleen is more of a sign that something is wrong than a disease itself. A slightly enlarged spleen will not cause many complaints. Because in malaria the malady parasite keeps multiplying in red blood cells and destroys them, the spleen works much too hard. Hence, malaria can lead to an enlarged spleen.


Stab in the spleen

In dogs and cats, the spleen serves as a storage place for blood. When they have to make a heavy effort, the spleen contracts. This way extra blood is supplied. This mechanism was discovered in dogs when scientists thought they had found an answer to the question of what causes the sting that humans sometimes feel during heavy exertion. The pain is said to be caused by the spleen contracting. There were even marathon runners at the time who had their spleen removed to get rid of the sting. However, it later turned out that the human spleen cannot contract. The real cause of the stabbing pain in the side is a build-up of intestinal gas in the left bend of the colon.

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