The spleen is an organ of the haematological system and has a role in immune response, storage of red blood cells and haematopoiesis.

The spleen is a wedge-shaped organ lying mainly in the left upper quadrant (left hypochondrium and partly in the epigastrium) and is protected by the left 9th to 11th ribs. It is soft, highly vascular and dark purple in colour.

Size and weight vary from person-to-person but on average is around 2.5 cm thick, 7.5 cm broad and 12.5 cm in length. For paediatric measurements, see the article spleen size (paediatric)

The spleen has two poles (superior and inferior), three borders and two surfaces (diaphragmatic and visceral). It is enclosed by a thin capsule, which is easily ruptured. 

The spleen is completely covered by peritoneum, except at the hilum, which forms a number of ligaments 6,7:

  • diaphragmatic surface (superoposteriorly): dome of the left hemidiaphragm
  • visceral surface (anteromedially)
    • pancreatic tail
    • left kidney and adrenal gland
    • stomach
  • from splenic hilar lymph nodes to retropancreatic lymph nodes, then draining to coeliac lymph nodes
  • sympathetic supply via coeliac plexus
  • parasympathetic supply via vagal trunks
  • best assessed in the supine, left lateral position with the left arm placed behind the head
  • visualized best obliquely in the 9th or 10th intercostal spaces
  • echogenicity usually higher when compared to the liver, but may be iso- or hypoechoic
Anatomy: Abdominopelvic
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Article information

rID: 9737
Section: Anatomy
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Spleen anatomy

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Cases and figures

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    Case 1: arterial phase
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    Case 2: splenic position and outline on plain film
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    Case 3: arterial phase
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