The spleen is located in the upper left quadrant of your abdomen. Your spleen is soft, round, purple in color, and about the size of your fist. This small organ aids in warding off infections by creating antibodies and removing bacteria from the blood. If you have your spleen removed, or the organ stops functioning properly, you can still survive, but will be at risk for health complications.
The Big Picture
While the spleen is critical in defending the body against infections, a person can live a long, healthy life without the organ, according to the Children’s Oncology Group. When the spleen is removed due to injury or for a transplant, other body parts, such as the liver or lymph nodes, begin to play a bigger role in your immune system. As a result of not having a spleen, your body is more susceptible to illness. Without a spleen, infections can be deadly if not treated right away. Your physician will recommend taking antibiotics daily and receiving additional vaccinations.
Beware of a Fever
One of the first signs of an infection is a fever. The Children’s Oncology Group recommends that when your temperature exceeds 101 degrees F, get medical attention right away. Fever can be caused by bacteria and only a blood sample will determine the cause. Until the cause is identified, your doctor will most likely prescribe a strong antibiotic.
Living without a spleen will require taking vaccines to reduce the risk for infections. Pneumococcal, Meningococcal, and Haemophilus influenza type B vaccines can help protect against infections. Without a spleen, it’s best to get yearly flu shots to lower the chances of getting a flu caused by bacterial infections. Keep in mind that vaccines are not foolproof. Even if you receive a vaccination, you can still get an infection.
When going on doctor or dentist appointments, make sure you inform medical personnel that you do not have a spleen. In case of an emergency and you lose consciousness, wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace distinguishing you as a person without a working spleen. In addition, the Children’s Oncology Group suggests carrying a medical alert card in your wallet, with special instructions for medical professionals.