Acting as a filter of blood and harmful organisms, as well as breaking down blood cells, the spleen carries many responsibilities in the human body. Located in the upper left side of the abdomen, next to the stomach, the spleen is neatly tucked in between the pancreas, stomach, and left kidney (Laparoscopic, 2013).The spleen is typically around 4 inches long and has a color scheme of purple-reddish. Although the size and weight vary according to age, the spleen is not palpable (Pai, 2012). The spleen has a very peculiar shape that accommodates to surrounding organs. The spleen (of course) has anterior and posterior ends; these two ends are shaped differently in order for other organs to be connected by blood vessels, and in order to sit comfortably.
The anterior end acts like a border; it’s guided to attain the midaxillary line. While the posterior end is opposite from the anterior: it displays a more rounded look, and lies on the upper pole of the left kidney (Pai, 2012). The spleen is vital in the fetal stage of life. While in development, the red pulp can perform as bone marrow (Kenny, 2012) meaning the spleen can produce red blood cells, though only for a short amount of time before the bone marrow takes over the responsibility. It is known that the spleen can start this production again if the body suffers from disease such as chronic myeloid leukemia or myelosclerosis (Pai, 2012). Even as while red pulp acts as a temporary bone marrow factory for the fetus, it still functions well beyond that point. Red pulp is where the spleen stores extra blood in case of severe injury to the body.
The high amount of platelets in this tissue is beneficial to the body because it has coagulation factors that help stop bleeding (Laparoscopic, 2013). Not only does it contain platelets, but the red pulp also contains fixed and free macrophages, lymphocytes, and blood cells. Having a variety of cells in this tissue means it can play a variety of roles ( Pai, 2012). An example of how cells change and create new formations is “ the lymphocytes are freely transformed into plasma cells, which can produce large amounts of antibodies and immunoglobulin” (Pai, 2012). Red pulp has the capacity to remove worn out and old red blood cells.
Since blood cells have a lifespan around 120 days, the spleen is constantly clearing off these cells. Meanwhile the debris can’t float around; macrophages are specialized cells that are sent to break them down further. Another chemical that carries oxygen and is further broken down is called hemoglobin (Kenny, 2012). While red pulp is beneficial to having an extra amount of blood supply has the ability to produce antibodies, there is another tissue in the spleen that can identify and attack foreign substances and invaders. This tissue is referred to as white pulp. White pulp is the part of the spleen that is more commonly associated with the lymphatic system. The majority of white pulp contains lymph related nodules.
These are known as Malphighain corpuscles (Laparoscopic, 2013). Because white pulp contains the ‘T’ and ‘B’ cells, it gives the spleen the ability to identify invading pathogens and produce antibodies. So how do these two cells work? While the blood is flowing through the spleen, the ‘T’ cell scans the blood for invaders or foreign substances. If any are detected, the ‘T’ cells attack them. The ‘B’ cells are able to create antibodies against viruses that may cause sickness or infection (Kenny, 2012). Red pulp and white pulp serve many tasks and obligations. Each is unique and both are needed in the body in order to maintain homeostasis. Although, with any organ that filters blood, there is a chance that damage and disease can affect it. The perfect scenario would be a healthy spleen along with the rest of the body, but that isn’t always the case. Sickle cell anemia is a disease that affects the spleen’s ability to filter blood. Instead of flowing through the spleen and vessels with no hesitation; the sickle cells get trapped and eventually die (Hopkins Medicine). Because it reduces the amount of oxygen carried throughout the body, this can cause organ damage and may require surgery (Shiel, 2013).
Another malfunction of the spleen results in having an enlarged spleen. An enlarged spleen is sometimes painful. Normally the spleen cannot be felt because it is hidden by the ribcage (WebMD, 2009). A doctor usually finds the enlargement during an exam. While at first the underlying cause is the first thing to try and solve, it may sometimes require a splenectomy, or a removal of the spleen (Mayo Clinic, 2010). When the spleen is removed it’s because it’s sick, has sickle cell anemia, isn’t function correctly, or due to cancer (WebMD, 2009). The body can live without the spleen because other organs and bone marrow can take over many of its responsibilities. However, as part of the lymphatic system, the spleen helps fight infection, Thus, with the spleen absent, the body is prone to a greater chance of infection (Kenny, 2012).
The body is very dependent on the spleen, and though the body can live without its presence. To rightly maintain homeostasis, it’s always ideal to have each organ operating correctly and efficiently, even though that isn’t always possible. The spleen is a unique and diverse organ. It has the capabilities of storing extra blood so that cases of a certain situation or emergency, the spleen can provide blood. It’s amazing how the body works together to compensate for lose in other areas of the body. The spleen is an essential piece in the lymphatic system, detecting harmful infections that may make us sick and then creating antibodies against them. As a result, it makes the body a consistent healthy organism, operating at its highest efficiency.