The spleen is located on the left side of the abdomen above the stomach and under the ribs. It is about the size of an adult fist and weighs about 200 grams in a healthy adult. A doctor may order an ultrasound of the spleen if he suspects a problem. Sometimes a spleen is removed surgically. The body can function without a spleen, although the immune system will be weakened.
The spleen has two functions: to filter the blood by removing abnormal cells and to produce disease-fighting lymphocytes and antibodies for the immune system.
The spleen is red pulp surrounded by a tough capsule. The red part consists of blood vessels and connective tissue. White pulp is underneath the red; this area contains the lymphoid tissue.
Problems Requiring Ultrasound
A doctor may order an ultrasound if he suspects splenomegaly, an accessory spleen or splenic injury.
Splenomegaly is an enlarged spleen caused by hemolytic anemia, liver cancer, infection or liver disease. Ultrasound cannot determine the cause, but it can confirm if the spleen is enlarged.
An accessory spleen is a common congenital variation that is easily identified by ultrasound. It is an extra spleen.
Injury to the spleen can be identified by ultrasound, but it may not be the chosen test. A computed tomography (CT) scan may be performed to detect the injury. However, ultrasound is often used to monitor healing progress.