Structure & Function of the Spleen
The spleen is an organ that often goes unnoticed by the average person. While it serves an important role in the body’s function, it is not critical to survival in the manner of the heart or lungs.
A healthy spleen is about half the size of a human fist and is located just below the ribcage. An enlarged spleen is a sign that it may be infected or have some other disorder.
The spleen is purple in color and its shape is reminiscent of a small catcher’s mitt. It contains a large collection of blood vessels.
The spleen filters the blood by removing damaged red blood cells. If an unhealthy blood cell passes through the spleen it will be broken down by units called macrophages.
Although the spleen serves a useful purpose, the human body can function well without it. That is why if the spleen becomes damaged or malfunctions, it may be surgically removed and the liver and lymph nodes will assume its role.
Even though the spleen is not essential to survival, its absence can weaken the body’s immune system. Because of this, people who have had their spleen removed will often be required to take antibiotics on a daily basis.