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What Organs Can You Live Without?

Our organs keep us alive, individually and in combination with other organs. There are about 78 organs in the human body, and each performs one or more vital functions. But do we really need all of those, or are there organs we can live without? 

 As it turns out, we don’t exactly need all of our organs in order to survive. Let’s look at a few “unnecessary” organs, their purpose and why you can live without them. 


What It Does
The appendix is somewhat of a mystery organ, as doctors and scientists aren’t 100% sure of its purpose. One common theory is that this little appendage to the large intestine is where the body stores good bacteria. It may also assist our immune system.  

Why You May Have to Have It Out
When a person develops appendicitis, it means the appendix has become infected. In most cases, doctors will recommend surgical removal of the appendix, known as an appendectomy. 

Why You Can Live Without One
After an appendectomy, patients typically go on to live with no measurable change in their quality of life. 


What It Does
Located in the upper abdomen, the gallbladder acts as a storage bag for bile, which the liver creates to help us digest fatty foods. 

Why You May Have to Have It Out
The gallbladder can sometimes develop gallstones, a painful condition that’s usually treated by removal of the organ. 

Why You Can Live Without One
While many doctors recommend a low-fat diet for patients who’ve had their gallbladder removed, this typically only needs to be temporary. Most people experience no complications from life without a gallbladder. 


What It Does
The kidneys perform a variety of important functions, such as filtering waste and excess water out of our blood, producing hormones and regulating the balance of sodium and other chemicals in our bodies. 

Why You May Have to Have It Out
Conditions including cancer and injury may necessitate the removal of a kidney.

Why You Can Live Without One
As vital as kidneys are, most people have two of them and can continue to live a normal life if they have to give one up. In fact, some people have donated one of their kidneys to help a patient with unhealthy kidneys, and both parties have gone on to live healthy lives. 


What It Does
Lungs take in oxygen, which moves into the bloodstream, and take carbon dioxide back out of the bloodstream. This waste gas is then expelled (exhaled) out of the body. In short, they’re what we breathe with. 

Why You May Have to Have It Out
Pneumonectomy, or removal of a lung, is performed when cancer or injury has damaged the lung beyond repair.  

Why You Can Live Without One
As with kidneys, we have two lungs, and can live without one of them when necessary. A person with one lung has to adjust their lifestyle somewhat, exerting themselves less due to their decreased intake of oxygen. 


What It Does
The spleen stores and filters blood, destroying damaged or old red blood cells but saving healthy elements for the body to use again.

Why You May Have to Have It Out
A swollen, ruptured or torn spleen will often be removed with a procedure called a splenectomy. 

Why You Can Live Without One
In the absence of a spleen, the lymph nodes and liver will typically adapt to undertake the spleen’s functions. 


What They Do
Part of the immune system, the tonsils fight viruses and bacteria that come into the body through the mouth. This can also make them more susceptible to becoming infected or swollen. 

Why You May Have to Have Them Out
When someone develops tonsillitis, it means their tonsils are inflamed. Unlike other conditions we’ve discussed, this is a contagious condition. A tonsillectomy, or removal of the tonsils — they come in and are removed in pairs — may be necessary when the inflamed tonsils can’t be treated any other way. 

Why You Can Live Without Them
Tonsils are less likely to be removed than they once were, with many doctors preferring alternate treatments. Some studies show an increased risk of respiratory disease in patients who’ve had them removed during childhood. But people do live without tonsils and many even experience some benefits in terms of sleep apnea reduction.  

Risks of Removal 

While people can live without the aforementioned organs and others, removal surgery, like any surgery, poses risks for complications and side effects. These can range from minor to severe and life threatening, depending on the organ and complication. Our original organs are best left alone, provided they’re healthy and functioning properly. However, when they’re not, it’s reassuring to know we may not need some of them. 

Online Programs Dedicated to Human Organ Systems 

The University of Florida’s renowned College of Medicine offers entirely online programs focused on human body systems and the organs that comprise them. All of these programs enable you to complete coursework anywhere, 24/7, at your own pace. Having a family or career doesn’t mean having to forego earning a career-boosting education credential! Our programs include:  

Master of Science in Medical Sciences with a concentration in Medical Physiology and Pharmacology 

Prepare for medical school and related exams (National Board, MCAT) as you explore how drugs and other factors affect the body’s systems. If you’ve taken either of the certificate programs below, you’ve already met 15 credits of this program’s 30-credit requirement! No GRE is required for admission, and you may be able to graduate in as little as one year. 

Graduate Certificate in Medical Physiology 

Learn the essentials of medical physiology and the individual human body systems. You can finish this 9- to 14-credit program in as little as one semester. 

Graduate Certificate in Medical Physiology with a specialization in Cardiovascular/Renal Physiology 

Gain an advanced understanding of cardiovascular and renal physiology and pathophysiology research that will benefit you in clinical settings. You may be able to complete this program in as little as two semesters. 

Master human physiology and pharmacology in an online degree or certificate program from the University of Florida.