Understanding your Spleen

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Feature image from ANCIENT CHINA

For many people with ITP, their spleen is to blame. The spleen plays an important function in the immune system, so when the spleen is misbehaving, it plays an important role in autoimmune disorders.

The human spleen is similar in structure to a lymph node and functions primarily as a filter of blood. It is also responsible for initiating immune reactions to blood-borne antigens. The spleen is on of the immune organs what tells the immune system to start fighting.

There are a number of reasons why people have ITP. It might be that the body does not produce enough platelets. For other’s their body kills off platelets as they are made. This is the spleen’s doing!

Splenectomies are still used as a treatment for ITP. A splenectomy

I used

Get a better understanding of what it actually does, to help inform your decision to have it removed. I used to now really understand and thought – just take it out already.  But I’m so glad my doctors didn’t listen to me – and I am so glad I have it.  It’s more complicated than you think.

When the spleen is removed, the body’s immune system is compromised and is can develop a susceptibility to certain illnesses. When I was first diagnosed, I told my haematologist to just ‘Take it out!” It doesn’t work like that.

Firstly, a splenectomy will only successfully treat ITP if the spleen is to blame for the platelet destruction.

Secondly, even if the splenectomy is successful, there is always a chance that the spleen will grow back and the ITP will return.  A study was done on 114 patients whose splenectomies failed and who required additional therapy.

A study was done on 114 patients whose splenectomies failed and who required additional therapy. The study showed that if the operation was likely to fail, it would be evident within the first year of the surgery (A couple of people’s splenectomy treatment did fail later).

PDSA – their page on splenectomy – https://www.pdsa.org/treatments/conventional/splenectomy.html

Splenectomy – pregnancy and not having a spleen – there is a little quote about the complications.

Guide to ITP people – http://guide2itp.com/truth-about-splenectomy

Just one more thing about ITP, it works for some people but not everyone. Everyone is different and ITP is unpredictable. I’m getting really sick of hearing this!

Further Reading

Long-term OUTCOMES IN ADULTS with chronic ITP after splenectomy failure

by Meg

Meghan Brewster is a writer and blogger. She is an ITP patient and launched ITP&Me in 2011. She is a coffee lover and a try hard dancer. @meghan_brewster

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