When we think about the organs in the human body we first think of the heart, the stomach, the lungs, and the brain. Did you know that the human body contains 80 organs with varying sizes and functions? Each organ is a collection of at least two tissues and millions of highly-specialized cells which together perform distinct jobs. From the largest – the skin (in both size and weight) – to the smallest – the pineal gland -, each performs a key function in keeping the body running correctly. Although ideally you would keep all of them, there are six which you can live without.
The appendix is a small organ resembling a worm. It is located where the small and large intestines join together. While it helps the immune system fight infections due to its production of immunoglobulins, many other organs do the same job. In fact, doctors and scientists aren’t completely sure why we have appendixes. They may have played a greater role thousands of years ago, but today we can live without them with no problems. And many people do after having it removed due to appendicitis.
The gall bladder is an organ in the digestive system. It is a small gland at the base of the liver which stores extra bile used in the liver to bread down fatty foods. Sometimes gallstones, or solid deposits, can form in the gallbladder. If they are small and few enough, they cause no problems. But later as they build up there will be an infection and pain. In this case, the doctor will remove the organ. Not much changes except some digestive discomfort and diarrhea if high-fat foods are eaten.
The lungs are the major organ of the respiratory system, helping you take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide. They are located in the upper chest cavity. However, it is possible to live with only one. A lung may be removed in the case of diseases such as cancer or tuberculosis. As each lung is individually equipped with everything needed to function without the other, the patient will still be able to breathe, although at 35 percent less capacity than with two lungs.
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There are two kidneys located right under the lungs. These bean-shaped organs are the most important ones in the urinary system. They filter toxins out of blood and regulate blood pressure by producing hormones. It is very important to drink enough water so that they can do their job well, eliminating the toxins through urine. People can live with only one though as it can still process the waste effectively. This is why it is possible to donate a kidney, even while you’re still alive. The only real risk is if something was to go wrong with your remaining kidney later in your own life. However, it is possible to live with no kidneys. In this case, the person is on dialysis. This treatment does the kidneys’ job of filtering. The only way a person can go without dialysis is by receiving a kidney donation.
The end of the digestive system, the colon, also known as the large intestine, is located between the small intestine and the anal opening. Its shape is that of an upside-down U in the lower abdominal region. The colon collects and moves along the solid waste out of the body. Although it is a very important organ, people with diseases such as colorectal cancer, ulcerative, colitis, or Crohn’s disease may need to have part or all of the colon removed in a surgery known as colectomy. The surgeon generally would create an opening in the abdomen by the small intestine and connect a bag to it. This bag remains outside the body so the person can empty it. However, since the colon is responsible for solidifying the waste, without it the stools will be more liquid like diarrhea.
The spleen is the largest organ in the lymphatic immune system. It is located under the diaphragm in the left upper abdomen between the ninth and eleventh ribs. The spleen stores platelets, makes antibodies, and destroys invading bacteria, viruses, and parasites. If it gets damaged or ruptures, it will be removed. However, the person will be at much higher risk for infections such as pneumonia, meningitis, sepsis, and malaria after removal.