The Symptoms and Causes of a Ruptured Spleen

The spleen is a delicate organ, located directly under the ribcage on the left side of the body. This fist sized organ helps the body fight infection and filter blood, making it both vitally important, while also extremely vulnerable. 

Any sort of forceful impact, trauma, or blow to the left side of the abdomen has the potential to rupture the spleen. A ruptured spleen is an emergency medical situation that requires immediate treatment, and typically emergency surgery to remove the spleen (called a splenectomy). Abdominal injuries from car accidents are common, and read on to learn about the common symptoms and causes of a ruptured spleen.

Herniation caused by a ruptured spleen

Ruptured Spleen: Symptoms in Adults

The most common and clear symptom of a ruptured spleen is severe pain in the left side of your abdomen. However, pain from a ruptured spleen can sometimes be felt all the way up in the left shoulder, making breathing difficult or painful. 

Pain high in the shoulder from a ruptured spleen can occur because a ruptured spleen may cause internal bleeding that irritates the phrenic nerve, a nerve that starts in the neck and runs through the diaphragm. When this occurs, it’s called Kehr’s sign.

There are other symptoms of a ruptured spleen to watch out for, including:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Blurry vision
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Restlessness or anxiety
  • Paleness
  • Drop in blood pressure


Common Causes of a Ruptured Spleen

Forceful trauma or blunt impact to the abdomen is the most common cause of a ruptured spleen. At the Thistle Law Firm, our attorneys most often see ruptured spleens that result from car accidents.

In head-on vehicle collisions, the seatbelt that crosses above the left abdomen can put pressure directly on the spleen. Deployed airbags, or impact from the vehicle frame or door can also deliver powerful blows to the left side of the abdomen and injure the spleen. A ruptured spleen that occurs due to a car accident may also be accompanied by other related external injuries, such as a fractured rib. 

Besides car accidents, a ruptured spleen may be the result of:

  • Sports injuries
  • Assault
  • Falls


What Would Cause a Spleen to Rupture Without Trauma?

There are numerous other causes of a ruptured spleen, including, but not limited to:

  • Infections
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Liver disease
  • Some types of cancers 

These various medical issues may cause the spleen to swell, resulting in the walls of the spleen becoming thin and prone to rupture. 


Delayed Splenic Rupture

A ruptured spleen may present immediately after a traumatic event such as a car accident, but it may sometimes not appear for days or weeks after the trauma. This is a situation known as “delayed splenic rupture”. In one case, a ruptured spleen did not present itself until 4 months after a minor blunt trauma to the abdomen. 

Doctors and health care providers should take signs and symptoms of splenic rupture seriously, and should fully investigate any abdominal trauma in the past several months as the potential cause of a ruptured spleen. 


How Long Can You Live With a Ruptured Spleen?

A ruptured spleen is a medical emergency. When the surface of a spleen breaks, it can cause massive internal bleeding that can quickly become life threatening without emergency care. 

Some patients will only need a few days of hospital care, while others will need emergency surgery. But regardless of the severity, a ruptured spleen must be treated immediately or the consequences can be fatal. 

Traumatic splenic rupture in CT Scan


Can You Die From a Ruptured Spleen?

People still die from a ruptured spleen every year, even at some of the best hospitals in the country. The current mortality rate from a simple splenic rupture is 1%, although a delayed diagnosis of a ruptured spleen will increase that rate to 10%. 

It is possible to live without a spleen, although patients who have had their ruptured spleen removed will be at a higher risk for life-threatening infections. That is because the spleen plays a critical role in the body’s ability to fight off bacteria. 


Ruptured Spleen Diagnosis

After any forceful trauma to the left side of the abdomen that is followed by severe pain, a doctor will likely perform an ultrasound or a CT scan of the abdomen to confirm a diagnosis of a ruptured spleen. If they don’t investigate for a ruptured spleen after this presentation, you may have standing to file a medical malpractice suit. 

The medical team will then decide whether the spleen needs observation or surgical intervention. 


Ruptured Spleen Treatment

Most ruptured spleens will require immediate surgery called a splenectomy, in which the surgeon will remove the entire spleen. In some cases, the surgeon may be able to repair the tear and put pressure on the spleen until the bleeding has stopped. 

For those with a minor splenic rupture, the medical team should keep the patient under strict observation, usually in conjunction with active treatment and possible blood transfusions. They should be continually monitored with scans such as a CT scan. 


How Much Compensation Do You Get for a Ruptured Spleen?

If your spleen was ruptured after a car accident that was due to another driver’s negligence, you may be wondering how much compensation you are entitled to. If there were multiple cars involved, can you even have a claim in a multi-car accident case? Unfortunately, putting an exact number on this type of injury is not possible without knowing the particulars of your case. 

Of course, your medical bills and property damages should be compensated after any type of car accident in which you are not at fault. But what about the pain and suffering that is caused due to the removal of a vital organ? While it is possible to survive without a spleen, how do you calculate the inevitable toll that living without a spleen can take on your body? 


When To Contact An Attorney About your Ruptured Spleen

While it is possible to live after a ruptured spleen, individuals without a spleen are at an increased risk of various infections, including the common flu, strep, or various parasitic infections such as malaria. You may be recommended by your doctor to carry around antibiotics that you will need to take at the first hint of an infection. 

These types of long lasting effects on your health can have an incalculable toll on your quality of life. A skilled attorney can help you accurately assess how much your pain and suffering damages from a ruptured spleen should be, connecting you to medical professionals who can help you determine exactly what life without a spleen is truly going to cost you in the long run. 

The Pennsylvania car accident attorney’s at the Thistle Law Firm have years of experience helping victims of car accidents and those with ruptured spleens receive the compensation they deserve after being seriously injured due to another driver’s negligence. You can get a better understanding of what your ruptured spleen claim might amount to with a free consultation, by calling us at 215-525-6824. We can also be reached online via our contact form.

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