Really Big Spleen

The average adult spleen weighs between a quarter and half a pound.  One young man’s claim to fame?  A spleen well above average — at 14.5 pounds when it was removed, as much as fifty times larger.

In August, 2009, Jadrian (he prefers not to disclose his last name online, as to protect his anonymity), made an appointment with his doctor after experiencing a strange confluence of symptoms: frequent urination (even at night); night sweats; and — despite a voracious appetite, massive weight loss.  He’d not make it to his appointment, however, as a few days beforehand he came down with a new symptom — severe abdominal pain — and went into an Urgent Care facility.  Before the day was out, Jadrian found himself on the operating table in the emergency room.

Unbeknownst to Jadrian, he had Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML), a form of cancer which causes his bone marrow to over-produce a type of white blood cells which the body can’t use — and therefore, never expire.  Rather, these cells stay in the body — specifically, in the spleen.  The spleen’s role, generally, is to collect unused white blood cells, storing them up until disease strikes.  But in the case of someone with CML, these errantly produced cells will never be needed (yet are still churned out by the malfunctioning bone marrow), so the spleen keeps collecting, collecting, collecting, growing ever larger in the process.

Jadrian’s enlarged spleen ruptured, requiring its removal.  (The removed spleen — the beet-red thing — is pictured above.  You can view a larger image here.)  His prognosis is good — he receives immunizations every other year to help boost his immune system and takes a prescription drug, Gleevec, to control the CML.  (He never required chemotherapy, but he did shave his head recently to raise cancer awareness — and filmed the shaving.)

His spleen is doing well, too — it’s being considered for recognition from the Guinness Book of Records as being the largest spleen in recorded history.

Bonus fact: The spleen’s role in fighting off maladies is a relatively new discovery.  The discovery of its role in storing monocytes, a specific type of white blood cells, was first published in July of 2009, just weeks before Jadrian’s was removed.

From the Archives: The Taman Shud Mystery: An unsolved murder with few clues — one of which is that the victim had a significantly enlarged spleen.

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