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Splenomegaly

Definition

Splenomegaly is a larger-than-normal spleen.

Alternative Names

Spleen enlargement; Enlarged spleen; Spleen swelling

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.

Many health conditions can affect the spleen. This includes:

  • Diseases of the blood or lymph system
  • Infections
  • Cancer
  • Liver disease

Symptoms of splenomegaly include:

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

Common Causes

Home Care

It is important to prevent injury that might cause the spleen to rupture. You should avoid contact sports.

Your doctor or nurse will tell you what else you need to do to take care of yourself and any medical condition.

Call your health care provider if

There are usually no symptoms from an enlarged spleen. However, some people have pain in the left upper section of the belly area. You should medical help 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 health care provider will ask questions about your symptoms and medical history.

A physical exam will be done. This will include feeling your abdomen (belly area). The health care provider will tap  (percuss) along the left upper part of your abdomen and feel (palpate) in that same area, especially just under the rib cage.

Tests that may be done include: 

  • Abdominal x-ray, ultrasound, or CT scan
  • Blood tests such as a CBC and tests of your liver function

This list is not all-inclusive.

References

Armitage JO.  Approach to the patient with lymphadenopathy and splenomegaly. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 171. 

Review Date: 2/19/2012
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.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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