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Prescription for Health

What does the spleen do in the body?

The spleen is an organ that sits on the left upper quarter of the abdomen. It commonly lies under the 9th to the 12th rib, next to the stomach and pancreas.

One of the major functions of the spleen is to filter old and dying red blood cells. The spleen also stores platelets that normally help in blood coagulation and clotting.

The spleen acts like a reservoir of a special type of cell called white blood cells. The white blood cells that are stored in the spleen migrate to the injury sites and transform into messenger cells that remove of dying or dead cells, and heal wounds.

As a result of infections and viruses, the spleen can become enlarged. This is common with leukemia or lymphoma cancers, mononucleosis – better known as “the kissing disease” – or sickle cell anemia. Trauma or spleen rupture can also cause significant issues.

Being diagnosed with any of these conditions increase your risk for your spleen improperly functioning.

While the spleen does play an important role in the body’s immune system, in some cases it can be removed. However, these patients run a greater risk of infections and viruses due to the dying or dead cells that will not be able to repair, since the reservoir for these special cells has been taken out. So if a decision is made to remove the due to leukemia, lymphoma, sickle cell anemia or just plain blunt trauma; vaccinations are a must to prevent infections that can be deadly.

Trauma to the spleen is critical and immediate action should be taken to prevent it from bursting. When possible, trauma surgeons will try to reserve as much of the spleen as they can so the patient’s body can still utilize it to reduce the risk of infection and help heal after surgery.

Dr. David B. Samadi is the Chairman of the Department of Urology and Chief of Robotic Surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. He is a board-certified urologist, specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of urological disease, with a focus on robotic prostate cancer treatments. Dr. Samadi joined Fox News Channel in 2009 as a medical contributor. To learn more please visit his websites and Find Dr. Samadi on Facebook.