Spleen – I want one/Anatomy 101

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I haven’t really researched much about having or not having a spleen. I guess I just figured that there isn’t anything I can do about not having one. I don’t worry about it much, but when a friend sent me the following, to ease my mind about taking antibiotics, again, I got curious.

People who have had their spleens removed are at special risk for infection. Early symptoms may include nausea, headache, muscle aches, and tiny reddened patches on the skin. If you have had your spleen removed, you should be aware that the potential for fatal infection exists, even from seemingly minor wounds. Some experts recommend that people without spleens should completely avoid contact with cats and dogs. This is an issue you and your doctor should discuss in detail.

I had my spleen removed when I fell out of a huge cottonwood tree in my front yard when I was 6. I evidently landed flat on my stomach and ruptured my spleen. I was pretty lucky getting to the doctor’s office quickly and he recognized the problem and immediately sent me into surgery. I spent nearly a week at the hospital. I spent a lot of my youth at the hospital.

So, all I knew, for the longest time, is that I could get pneumonia much easier than the average person, so I had to take yearly pneumonia shots. Those shots got better or something, because they eventually were every two years then 5, now every ten years.

So, with this cat bite thing, I started checking the information on spleens some. The information I found totally bummed me out. I want one of those things now. It filters 10-15% of your blood every minute. So, it’s main function is filtering blood, keeping you from infection, especially lung crud. But, the thing I was wondering about was the amount of blood I was missing by not having one. And how depressing was the answer. Super.

The spleen holds something around 250-300ml of blood. But, not just normal blood. It holds super blood. Blood that is super concentrated, 80% hematocrit. It releases the super blood when you are short of oxygen, like when you might need some extra when you are exercising to extreme lengths. It is an organ that would be pretty valuable to have as an endurance athlete. I already have an pretty okay VO2 max., but now I’m wondering, “what if”?

So, theoretically, I actually wouldn’t be blood doping if I got an extra unit of super blood infused every once in a while. I would be just having the normal amount of blood that I’ve been missing for the past 4 decades. I wonder if I could get a TUE for that?

Maybe I can just buy one, but I don't know how to separate it from the liver.

8 thoughts on “Spleen – I want one/Anatomy 101

  1. Zach T.

    Sure, there are some what-ifs, but I’d say you’ve gotten along pretty well without a spleen. World champion, multi-national champion, and probably most importantly, still kicking the asses of guys 1/3 your age.

  2. Hudson Luce

    Steve, when they measured your VO2 max at KU Med in that exercise physiology study, it was an outlier, like off the charts… Stay away from those feral cats, though. “Cat Scatch Fever” made Ted Nugent a lot of money and made his career – it could finish yours, just sayin’…

  3. Brian

    Actually, the contribution of the spleen to RBC/HCT in humans is rather low compared to dogs and horses.

    “In contrast the small exercise induced hct increase in man by
    maximally 5 % results mainly from hemoconcentration by water
    shift to the muscles; no more than 50 ml red cells (2 – 3 % of the
    total volume) might be supplied to the active circulation by
    spleen contraction”


  4. SB

    Seriously, careful with infections. We lost my father in law in less than 24 hours after the onset of a fever. His spleen was also out as a youngster.

  5. franz

    if I did not have a bunch of my red blood cells trapped in my spleen I might be faster.


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