The spleen Overview of the Spleen The spleen, a spongy, soft organ about as big as a person’s fist, is located in the upper left part of the abdomen, just under the rib cage. The splenic artery brings blood to the spleen from... read more is crucial to the function of the immune system Overview of the Immune System The immune system is designed to defend the body against foreign or dangerous invaders. Such invaders include Microorganisms (commonly called germs, such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi) Parasites... read more . 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 Overview of Immunodeficiency Disorders Immunodeficiency disorders involve malfunction of the immune system, resulting in infections that develop and recur more frequently, are more severe, and last longer than usual. Immunodeficiency... read more .)
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 Pneumococcal Vaccine Pneumococcal vaccines help protect against bacterial infections caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococci). Pneumococcal infections include ear infections, sinusitis, pneumonia, bloodstream... read more and meningococcal vaccines Meningococcal Vaccine The meningococcal vaccine protects against infections caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis (meningococci). Meningococcal infections can lead to meningitis (an infection of tissue covering... read more . 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.