Thumbnail image of: Spleen: Illustration

Bruised Spleen

What is a bruised spleen?

A bruised spleen is an injury to the spleen, which is an organ in the left upper part of your belly. It filters bacteria from the blood, stores blood, and removes old blood cells. It helps your body fight infection. The spleen also helps keep the number of blood cells in balance.

If you think you have injured your spleen, it is important to get checked to make sure that the spleen has not ruptured (torn). Rupture of the spleen can be life-threatening.

What is the cause?

Car accidents are the most common cause of a bruised spleen. It can also happen with other injuries, such as getting hit in the belly playing sports or in a fight, or if you fall onto your bicycle handlebars.

What are the symptoms?

A mild bruise may cause no symptoms or only some mild tenderness of the belly. Symptoms of a severely bruised spleen may include:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Unusually pale skin
  • Fast heart rate
  • Pain and tenderness in the left upper belly
  • Pain in your left shoulder area

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms, medical history, how you were injured, and examine you.

You may have tests such as:

  • Blood tests
  • An ultrasound, which uses sound waves to show swelling, tears, and collections of blood in or near the spleen
  • CT scan, which uses X-rays and a computer to show swelling, tears, and collections of blood in or near the spleen and other injuries around the spleen, such as broken ribs, which can tear the spleen or cause bleeding

How is it treated?

If the physical exam and tests show no injuries other than a bruise, the treatment is rest and follow-up with your healthcare provider. It may take just a couple of weeks to recover from a bruised spleen.

You may need surgery if:

  • You have bleeding in your belly.
  • You have signs of blood loss or low blood pressure.

If your spleen is ruptured, rather than bruised, it may leak blood slowly, which is dangerous. You may need surgery to check your spleen, or to repair or remove your spleen if it is ruptured. If you need surgery, your recovery time may be longer—at least 4 to 6 weeks if your spleen has to be removed. If your spleen is removed, you may have trouble fighting off infections for the rest of your life. You may need to get extra vaccinations to prevent some types of infection. You should tell your healthcare providers you do not have a spleen.

How can I take care of myself?

Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your healthcare provider. Ask your provider:

  • How and when you will hear your test results
  • How long it will take to recover
  • If there are activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
  • How to take care of yourself at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

How can I help prevent a bruised spleen?

Car accidents are the main cause, so wearing your seat belt can help decrease the risk.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-10-23
Last reviewed: 2014-09-24
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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