Spontaneous spleen rupture mimicking non-specific thoracic pain: A rare case in physiotherapy practice

Carla Sforza, Michele Margelli, Firas Mourad, Fabrizio Brindisino, John D. Heick, Filippo Maselli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: The prevalence of Thoracic Pain (TP) is estimated to be low compared to other common musculoskeletal disorders such as nonspecific low back pain (LBP). Notably, compared to LBP, TP or referral pain to the thoracic area potentially may involve serious pathologies. Visceral referral of pain may present to the thoracic spine or anteriorly in the abdomen or chest. Rupture of the spleen in the absence of trauma or previously diagnosed disease is rare and rarely documented in emergency medicine literature. The incidence of red flags are higher in the thoracic area in comparison to the lumbar or cervical regions, but TP can also be of musculoskeletal origin and for this reason it is important to assess the origin of pain. Case Description: This case report describes the clinical history, evaluation and management of a 60-year-old complaining of upper thoracic, bilateral shoulder, and right upper quadrant abdominal pain. The patient’s clinical findings from a physiotherapist’s assessment led to a referral to a physician to explore a potential non-musculoskeletal origin. A splenectomy was required due to a non-traumatic rupture of the spleen. After 20 days of hospitalization from the surgery, the patient returned to all normal activities of daily living. Discussion and Conclusion: The purpose of this current case report is to describe the clinical reasoning of a physiotherapist screening a patient who presented with thoracic pain due to a spontaneous rupture of the spleen, that resulted in a referral to another health practitioner.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)641-649
Number of pages9
JournalPhysiotherapy Theory and Practice
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2023


  • Spleen rupture
  • differential diagnosis
  • physiotherapist
  • screening for referral
  • thoracic pain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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