The spleen is a blood filtering organ tucked up under the rib cage on the left side of the abdomen. It is often enlarged in viral infections, especially mononucleosis or hepatitis.

When it is enlarged in mononucleosis, it is somewhat delicate and prone to rupture if struck hard (with catastrophic consequences of internal bleeding), so strenuous activity and contact sports are usually prohibited until it resumes more normal size.

The importance of the spleen in guarding against bacterial germs loose in the bloodstream is very great - so great that children who lose the spleen by surgery after severe internal abdominal injury or whose spleen is destroyed by the effects of sickle cell disease are at great risk for certain dangerous bacterial infections. These children are kept on prophylactic penicillin for life.

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