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Health Encyclopedia

Health Encyclopedia

An invaluable resource of health information.

Splenomegaly

Splenomegaly is an enlargement of the spleen beyond its normal size.

  • Alternative Names

    Spleen enlargement; Enlarged spleen

  • Considerations

    The spleen is an organ that is a part of the lymph system. It filters the blood and maintains healthy red and white blood cells and platelets.

    Because of its wide variety of functions, the spleen may be affected by many conditions involving the blood or lymph system, and by infection, malignancies, liver disease, and parasites.

    Symptoms of splenomegaly include:

    • Inability to eat a large meal
    • Pain on the upper left side of the abdomen
    • Hiccups
  • Common Causes
  • Home Care

    Appropriate limitation of activity, including avoiding contact sports, will help prevent trauma that might cause the spleen to rupture.

    Care will be required for the specific condition causing the splenomegaly. Follow the instructions given by your health care provider regarding appropriate care.

  • Call your health care provider if

    Although often there are no symptoms from an enlarged spleen, you may experience pain in the left upper section of your abdomen. You should seek attention from your doctor right away if it is severe or gets worse when you take a deep breath.

  • What to expect at your health care provider's office

    The physician will ask a series of questions to determine if you have symptoms either from the enlarged spleen or the underlying cause of the large spleen, such as fever or signs of an infectious disease.

    The doctor will also perform a thorough exam of your abdomen. To check for an enlarged spleen, he or she will percuss (tap) along the left upper quadrant of your abdomen and palpate (feel) in that same area, especially just under the rib cage.

    Diagnostic tests may be required, including:

    • Abdominal x-ray or CT scan
    • Blood tests such as a CBC and tests of your liver function
    • Tests for suspected causes
  • References

    Armitage J. Approach to the patient with lymphadenopathy and splenomegaly. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007: chap 174.

Review Date: 10/1/2008

Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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