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Trivial trauma and delayed rupture of a normal spleen: a case report

Nicholas Sowers1 and F Kris Aubrey-Bassler2*

Author Affiliations

1 Emergency Medicine, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, Canada

2 Primary Healthcare Research Unit, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, NL, Canada

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Journal of Medical Case Reports 2011, 5:591  doi:10.1186/1752-1947-5-591

Published: 21 December 2011



Although a majority of splenic ruptures present acutely with a known mechanism of injury, a minority of patients present days to weeks following trauma with a delayed rupture. Also uncommon is the atraumatic rupture, the vast majority of which occur in patients with underlying splenic pathology. A handful of cases of apparently spontaneous rupture of a normal spleen are reported; however, there is debate about whether these actually represent delayed ruptures following a history of trauma that is not elicited. Although a few cases of delayed rupture of the spleen following trivial trauma have been reported, the majority of these present evidence of an underlying disease process. We found only two such cases that documented a normal spleen and three cases where underlying splenic pathology was not reported. We review the literature and discuss the phenomenon of delayed rupture of the normal spleen following trivial trauma.

Case presentation

A 27-year-old Caucasian man with no underlying splenic pathology presented with splenic rupture one week after playfully wrestling with his partner. The patient did not present at the time of the injury and only recalled it upon repeated questioning after computed tomography diagnosis.


This case lends support to the theory that the normal spleen can rupture some time after trivial trauma, which seems like a more plausible explanation than rupture without cause. However, given the dearth of similar reports in the literature, the possibility remains that the association we have observed is not causational.

spleen; splenic rupture; wounds and injuries; delayed diagnosis; minor trauma; delayed splenic rupture