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What Is the Splenic Flexure?

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on April 12, 2021

The splenic flexure is a part of your colon, or your large intestine, where it bends near your spleen, an organ that mainly filters your blood. It's also the place where many blood vessels come together.

Your doctor might mention the involvement of your splenic flexure if you're experiencing a lot of pain in your upper left abdomen or if you have conditions involving your colon.

Where is the Splenic Flexure?

A "flexure" is a place where the colon bends. Your colon has two flexures: one on the right side and one on the left. The splenic flexure is called that because it's near your spleen, but sometimes it's called the left colic flexure because it's on the left side of your body.

Your small intestine meets your colon in your lower right abdomen. Food is transformed into stool as it travels through the colon. It first travels up through the ascending colon to your upper right abdomen. Then, it crosses your abdomen to the left side of your body through the transverse colon. Finally, it heads back down toward your anus in the descending colon.

The splenic flexure is the bend where the transverse colon and descending colon meet in the upper left part of your abdomen. It is the highest point your colon reaches in your body.

Why Is the Splenic Flexure Important?

Many blood vessels come together at the splenic flexure, so the area is important for blood flow. Injuries to the colon near the splenic flexure can cause blood loss or low blood pressure.

Since the splenic flexure is a bend in the colon, gas can build up in that area. If the gas build-up too much, you can get “splenic flexure syndrome”. 

Splenic Flexure and Blood Flow

Two major arteries — the blood vessels that carry oxygen-containing blood — come together at the splenic flexure. That is to say, changes to the splenic flexure can affect blood flow. 

Sometimes, these changes can cause low blood pressure or blood loss. If blood flow is completely blocked, you can get ischemia, which is when a part of your body doesn't get enough oxygen, causing a part or all of your colon to die.

A place that is most important for blood flow in the splenic flexure is called Griffiths' Point. Ischemia involving the colon is often called ischemic colitis.

What Affects the Blood Flow at Your Splenic Flexure?

Injuries to your colon. A serious injury near your splenic flexure could damage your colon and affect blood flow in the area. 

Cancer. A tumor growing in or near your splenic flexure can affect the nearby blood vessels and slow or block blood flow. Colon cancer can be more difficult to treat or operate on if it is near the splenic flexure.

Surgery. Surgeons have to be especially careful when operating near the splenic flexure for many reasons, but the most important one is that many blood vessels are found in the area.

Vascular disease. Vascular disease affects the blood flow in your blood vessels. There are many types and causes of vascular disease.

If you're experiencing severe pain in your upper left abdomen, you may have ischemia in your colon. Treatments for ischemic colitis depend on what caused it. They may also include surgery. 

Splenic Flexure Syndrome

Gas in the colon is normal. Many people experience gas build-ups at times. But if you're experiencing a lot of abdominal pain in your upper left side, you could have a severe build-up of gas in your splenic flexure.

Gas can have difficulty traveling around the bend at the splenic flexure, which is the highest point of your colon, causing it to build up. This is known as “splenic flexure syndrome”. 

Symptoms. The symptoms of splenic flexure syndrome include bloating, pain in the upper left abdomen, and a feeling of fullness in the abdomen.

Causes. People with irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, are most likely to have splenic flexure syndrome, with some experts even considering it to be a type of IBS. Because stress can exacerbate IBS, it may also cause splenic flexure syndrome. 

Some doctors think that what you eat can cause splenic flexure syndrome. They recommend eating fewer foods like carbohydrates, fatty foods, or artificial sugar substitutes because they can cause gas to build up, which can later lead to the disease.

Diagnosis. Your doctor may order imaging tests like a CT scan to see if you have splenic flexure syndrome.

Treatment. As mentioned, some doctors recommend eating fewer carbohydrates, sugar substitutes, and eating more fiber-rich foods. Because stress and mental health can also contribute to IBS and thus to splenic flexure syndrome, your doctor may recommend treatments targeting your mental health like psychotherapeutic drugs and therapy. Biofeedback therapy, a form of therapy where a therapist monitors your body functions as you try techniques to relax and reduce stress, may be effective as well.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Advanced Research in Gastroenterology & Hepatology: "Don't Let Artificial Sweeteners Destroy Your Own Digestive System.

American Journal of Roentgenology: “Griffiths' point: critical anastomosis at the splenic flexure. Significance in ischemia of the colon.”‌

Intestinal Research: "Bloating in the Supine Position."

Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Gas in the Digestive Tract."

Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology: "Gastrointestinal: Ischemic colitis associated with colon cancer." 

Mayo Clinic: "Ischemic Colitis."

Postgraduate Medical Journal: "Splenic Flexure Syndrome"

StatPearls: "Bowel Ischemia."

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