It’s a viral question sweeping the nation: what does the spleen do? Clever Ylvis parodies aside, let’s face it – most people don’t really know. Come to think of it, most of us don’t even really know where it’s located or what it looks like. Or even if you can live without it, like its more famous vestigial neighbor (the appendix).
The basics: the spleen is a large, pillowy-looking structure that’s nestled right behind the stomach. According to medical literature (ok, WebMD), spleens perform “multiple support functions” for vital organs. Sort of like your own personal tech support manager! And like an indispensable behind-the-scenes employee, just because the spleen isn’t the star of the show doesn’t mean it’s unimportant. Among its civic duties: serving as an immune system filter, a recycling center for red blood cells, and helps to fight bacterial infections. Yay spleen!
But like any organ, the spleen is delicate and sensitive. It’s possible to suffer from an enlarged spleen (thanks to minor immune diseases like mononucleosis, or – eek – certain cancers). You can also suffer from a ruptured spleen, usually caused by a traumatic injury. The latter’s more dangerous, because a) you risk leaking spleen juice into your abdominal cavity and b) as we’ve established, you kinda need your spleen. But in the rare chance that the spleen suffers damage or illness, it is possible to live without it and spleen removal is a fairly routine surgery.
On the bright side, if any harm ever does happen to come to your beloved spleen – not to worry, there’s a chance you may have a built-in back-up plan. Enter the elusive “accessory spleen” – a rare phenomenon in which a person is born with a tiny second spleen! It happens to an estimated 10% of the population, so there’s a 1 in 10 chance you could be the proud owner of not one but two lovely spleens.
Now that you’ve got a better grip on what the spleen does, feel free to continue to watch this hilarious video on repeat.