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Spleen Disorders and Immunodeficiency


James Fernandez

, MD, PhD, Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University

Last full review/revision Dec 2019| Content last modified Dec 2019
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The spleen is crucial to the function of the immune system. The spleen filters the blood, removing and destroying bacteria and other infectious organisms in the bloodstream. It also produces antibodies (immunoglobulins). (See also Overview of Immunodeficiency Disorders.)

For people whose spleen is absent at birth or has been damaged or removed because of disease, the risk of developing severe bacterial infections is increased.

People who do not have a spleen particularly need pneumococcal vaccines and meningococcal vaccines. They may need these vaccines at different times than in the usual childhood vaccine schedule.

People who have a spleen disorder or no spleen are given antibiotics at the first sign of infection. Children who do not have a spleen should take antibiotics, usually penicillin or ampicillin, continuously until at least age 5 to prevent an infection in the bloodstream. If they also have an immunodeficiency disorder, they may take these antibiotics indefinitely.

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