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Anatomy Of The Spleen

Discover the hidden wonders of the spleen as we delve into its intriguing anatomy and uncover its vital role in maintaining overall health.

USMLE Guide: Anatomy of the Spleen


In this USMLE guide, we will explore the anatomy of the spleen. The spleen is an essential organ of the lymphatic system, located in the upper left quadrant of the abdomen. Understanding its structure, function, and clinical relevance is crucial for medical students preparing for the USMLE exams. Let's dive into the anatomy of the spleen!


The spleen is a reddish-brown, oval-shaped organ that lies posterior to the stomach, extending from the diaphragm to the left kidney. It is usually 12 cm long, 7 cm wide, and 3 cm thick. The organ is encapsulated by a tough fibrous capsule, which sends trabeculae into the parenchyma, dividing it into compartments called splenic lobules.

External Features

  • Hilum: The hilum is a concave region on the medial surface of the spleen where the splenic artery, splenic vein, and lymphatics enter and exit.
  • Diaphragmatic Surface: The smooth, convex surface of the spleen facing the diaphragm.
  • Visceral Surface: The irregular surface of the spleen facing the stomach and other neighboring organs.
  • Borders: The superior, inferior, and anterior borders of the spleen.

Internal Features

  • Red Pulp: This forms the bulk of the spleen and is involved in filtering blood, removing old or damaged red blood cells, and storing platelets.
  • White Pulp: Composed of lymphoid tissue, the white pulp is involved in immune responses, particularly against blood-borne pathogens.
  • Trabecular Arteries: These arteries branch from the splenic artery and supply the splenic lobules.
  • Central Arteries: Each splenic lobule contains a central artery. These arteries give rise to penicillar arterioles, which open into the red pulp.
  • Venous Sinuses: The red pulp contains venous sinuses, where blood from the penicillar arterioles drains into splenic veins.


The spleen performs several vital functions, including:

  1. Immunological Function: The white pulp of the spleen houses immune cells, such as lymphocytes, which mount immune responses against pathogens.
  2. Filtration of Blood: The spleen filters and removes old or damaged red blood cells, preventing their circulation and promoting erythrocyte turnover.
  3. Hematopoiesis: In certain conditions, such as anemia, the spleen can act as a site for hematopoiesis, producing red blood cells.
  4. Platelet Storage: The spleen stores platelets and can release them into circulation when needed.

Clinical Significance

Understanding the clinical implications of spleen anatomy is crucial for USMLE preparation. Here are some relevant clinical considerations:

  1. Splenic Rupture: Trauma or certain medical conditions can cause splenic rupture, leading to abdominal pain, hypotension, and left shoulder pain due to referred pain from the diaphragm.
  2. Splenomegaly: Enlargement of the spleen can occur in various conditions, such as infections (e.g., mononucleosis), liver diseases, hematological disorders, and cancers. It may result in left upper quadrant pain, anemia, and thrombocytopenia.
  3. Accessory Spleens: It is essential to be aware of the presence of accessory spleens, which are small, extra spleens that can occur near the main spleen or elsewhere in the abdomen.
  4. Splenectomy: Surgical removal of the spleen may be necessary in cases of trauma, certain hematological disorders, or as part of other surgical procedures. Post-splenectomy patients are at an increased risk of infections, particularly from encapsulated bacteria.

Remember to review these clinical aspects and associated pathology to excel in USMLE examinations!


The spleen is a crucial organ with various functions related to immune response, blood filtration, and hematopoiesis. Understanding its anatomy, function, and clinical significance is vital for medical students preparing for the USMLE exams. Stay focused, review related pathologies, and ace your exams!

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