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Liver or Spleen Laceration

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Mar 5, 2023.

What is a liver or spleen laceration?

A liver or spleen laceration is a cut, tear, or puncture in your liver or spleen. These injuries may or may not happen at the same time.

Abdominal Organs

What are the signs and symptoms of a liver or spleen laceration?

You may have an open wound on your abdomen. You may have pain, swelling, or bruising in your abdomen. You may have pain in your left shoulder if you bleed from your spleen. If you bleed heavily from your liver or spleen, you may feel weak, dizzy, or faint.

How is a liver or spleen laceration diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine you and ask about your symptoms. You may need any of the following:

  • X-ray, ultrasound, CT, or MRI pictures may show a hole, cut, or tear in your liver or spleen. Pictures may also show blood or fluid in your abdomen. You may be given contrast liquid to help the liver, spleen, and blood vessels show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.
  • Blood tests check your blood cell levels and liver function.
  • A diagnostic laparoscopy looks for damage to your liver or spleen and bleeding in your abdomen. During this procedure, small incisions are made in your abdomen. A small scope is inserted through these incisions. A scope is a flexible tube with a light and camera on the end.

How is a liver or spleen laceration treated?

You may be monitored in an intensive care unit (ICU). Healthcare providers will check your abdomen for swelling or bruising every 1 to 2 hours. You may need an x-ray, ultrasound, or CT scan once a day to check for bleeding in your abdomen. You may also need any of the following:

  • Medicines may be given to treat pain and prevent infection. You may be given a tetanus shot. Tetanus is a severe infection caused by bacteria. Tell your healthcare provider if you have had the tetanus vaccine or a tetanus booster within the last 5 years.
  • A blood transfusion may be given if you bleed heavily.
  • IV fluids may be given to prevent dehydration and help your circulation.
  • A drain may be placed to remove extra blood or fluid from your abdomen.
  • Embolization is a procedure to stop bleeding from your liver or spleen. A liquid, coil, or gel is injected into a blood vessel. Ask your healthcare provider for more information on this procedure.
  • Surgery may be needed to repair damage to your spleen or liver or stop bleeding. Your spleen may be removed if it is severely damaged.

What can I do to care for myself after a spleen or liver laceration?

  • Rest as directed. Take a short walk 2 to 3 times each day. This may prevent blood clots and help you heal faster. Do not play contact sports such as football or soccer. These activities can increase your risk for bleeding from your liver or spleen. Do not drive until your healthcare provider says it is okay. Ask your healthcare provider when you can return to your regular activities and work or school.
  • Care for your wound as directed. Do not remove your bandage for 24 hours or as directed. When your healthcare provider says you can shower, carefully wash around the wound with soap and water. It is okay to let soap and water gently run over your wound. Do not scrub your wound. Dry the area and put on new, clean bandages as directed. Change your bandages when they get wet or dirty. Check your wound every day for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or pus. Do not take a bath or swim until your healthcare provider says it is okay. These actions may cause an infection.
  • Do not take aspirin or NSAIDs. These medicines may increase your risk for bleeding.

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) for any of the following:

  • You feel lightheaded, short of breath, and have chest pain.
  • You cough up blood.
  • You have trouble breathing.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
  • Your skin or eyes are yellow.
  • Your abdomen is larger than normal, firm, and painful.
  • You look pale or feel weak, dizzy, or faint.
  • You have new or worsening pain.
  • Blood soaks through your bandage.
  • Your wound comes apart.
  • You are vomiting blood or material that looks like coffee grounds.
  • You have blood in your bowel movements.
  • You have pain in your left shoulder.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You have a fever.
  • Your wound is red, swollen, or draining pus.
  • Your pain does not get better after you take your pain medicine.
  • You have nausea or are vomiting.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

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