The spleen plays a crucial role in your body’s immune system. It is found in the upper left-hand side of the abdomen, partly protected by the ribcage. However, due to injury or necessary surgery (splenectomy), some people find themselves without this vital organ. Living without a spleen is entirely possible, and most individuals lead normal, healthy lives. 

Role of the spleen  

The spleen filters the bloodstream, helps fight infections, and regulates inflammation. It consists of two types of tissues: red pulp (which filters blood) and white pulp (containing white blood cells that respond to infections). 

The red pulp removes old, damaged, or infected red blood cells, recycling their iron for new blood cells. In certain situations, the spleen can even produce new red blood cells when the bone marrow isn’t functioning optimally. 

Within the red pulp lies an area known as the marginal zone. This is home to special white blood cells called splenic macrophages. These macrophages filter pathogens out of the blood, providing an important defence against certain bacteria that resist other immune mechanisms. 

Taking extra precautions when living without a spleen  

  • If you do not have a spleen, or have a spleen that does not work well, you have an increased risk of developing some serious infections. The risk is reduced by immunisation, taking regular low-dose antibiotics, taking full-strength antibiotics as soon as the first sign of infection develops and practicing good hygiene to prevent infections.  
  • You should consult your healthcare team for personalised advice and when planning for trips abroad.  
  • Make it known that you do not have a working spleen. Consider carrying an alert card so that doctors can take rapid action if you are in an accident or seriously ill.  Download the NHS alert card.   

Further information:  

Good supporting information can be found via the links below: 

Information for patients with an absent or dysfunctional spleen – GOV.UK ( 

Spleen problems and spleen removal | NHS inform 

Splenectomy leaflet – Information for patients with an absent or dysfunctional spleen – English version (  

Splenectomy | Great Ormond Street Hospital ( 

Lymphoma Action | Splenectomy ( 

Posted February 2024