Our spleens serve to filter our blood, getting rid of misformed, flawed, or old red blood cells. A number of conditions can cause an enlarged spleen–also known as splenomegaly. In adults, this largely asymptomatic condition is often diagnosed in routine physical exams, but is generally confirmed using other methods, such as MRIs.
But what happens if you’re diagnosed with splenomegaly?
The Mayo Clinic explains that treatment for splenomegaly depends on–and focuses upon–whatever the underlying issue is, because splenomegaly can be caused by various other conditions, such as infections, cancer, and liver disease.
Sometimes, your doctor may suggest spleen removal surgery–especially if your case of splenomegaly is causing severe complications, or the underlying cause is untreatable or untraceable. This procedure, which is known as a splenectomy, is sometimes an individual’s best chance at recovery. This is often the case in critical and chronic cases of splenomegaly. After a splenectomy, there are a number of steps you can take to minimize your likelihood of coming down with an infection, such as:
- Taking a course of penicillin or other antibiotics.
- Calling your doctor as soon as you come down with a fever, because fevers are often the first sign of an infection.
- Receiving certain vaccinations (Pneumovax 23 and Hib) before and after the procedure. You’ll also need the former vaccine every five years after the surgery.
- Avoiding traveling to areas of the world where certain diseases–like malaria–are common.
If the cause cannot be identified, it’s possible your doctor will simply suggest keeping an eye on it, visiting again for a reevaluation in six to 12 months; you’ll have to follow up sooner if you develop symptoms, however.
An Ezra MRI may catch splenomegaly. You can learn about our screening options by following this link.