Liver Disease Symptoms, Signs, and Treatments
What Is Liver Function?
- The liver is the largest solid organ in the body, weighing on average about 3.5 pounds.
- The liver carries out a large number of critical functions, including manufacture of essential proteins, and metabolism of fats and carbohydrates.
- The liver also serves to eliminate harmful biochemical waste products and detoxify alcohol, certain drugs, and environmental toxins.
- The liver forms and secretes bile that contains bile acids to aid in the digestion and intestinal absorption of fats and the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
- Diseases that may affect the liver include hepatitis (inflammation of the liver), cirrhosis (scarring), fatty liver, and liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma).
- Symptoms of liver disease may include:
The liver is the largest solid organ in the body. People may not know that the liver is also the largest gland in the body. The liver is actually two different types of gland. It is a
secretory gland because it has a specialized structure that is designed to allow it to make and secrete bile into the bile ducts. It also is an
endocrine gland since it makes and secretes chemicals directly into the
blood that have effects on other organs in the body. Bile is a fluid that both
aids in digestion and absorption of fats as well as carries waste products into
What Is the Size of the Liver?
The liver weighs about three and a half pounds (1.6 kilograms). It measures on average, about 8 inches (20 cm) horizontally (across), and 6.5 inches (17 cm) vertically (down), and is 4.5 inches (12 cm) thick.
Liver Location and Anatomy
The liver is located just below
the diaphragm (the muscular membrane separating the chest
from the abdomen), primarily in the upper right part of the
abdomen, mostly under the ribs. However, it also extends across the middle of
the upper abdomen and part way into the left upper abdomen. An irregularly shaped,
dome-like solid structure, the liver consists of two main parts (a
larger right lobe and a smaller left lobe) and two minor lobes. As you
can see in the diagram below, the upper border of the right lobe is
at the level of the top of the 5th rib (a little less
than 1/2 inch below the nipple), and the upper border of the left
lobe is just below the 5th rib (about 3/4 inch below the nipple).
During inspiration (breathing in), the liver is pushed down by
the diaphragm and the lower edge of the liver descends below the margin of the lowest rib
Picture of the liver and where it is located in the abdomen
Last Reviewed 8/30/2017
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