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the large, dark-red gland located in the upper right portion of the abdomen, just beneath the diaphragm (see also color plates). Its manifold functions include storage and filtration of blood; secretion of bile; conversion of sugars into glycogen; the synthesis and breakdown of fats and the temporary storage of fatty acids; and the synthesis of serum proteins such as certain of the alpha and beta globulins, albumin (which helps regulate blood volume), and fibrinogen and prothrombin (which are essential coagulation factors).
Storage Functions. The liver can store up to 20 per cent of its weight in glycogen and up to 40 per cent of its weight in fats. The basic fuel of the body is a simple form of sugar called glucose. This comes to the liver as one of the products of digestion, and is converted into glycogen for storage. It is reconverted to glucose, when necessary, to keep up a steady level of sugar in the blood. This is normally a slow, continuous process, but in emergencies the liver, responding to epinephrine in the blood, releases large quantities of this fuel into the blood for use by the muscles.

As the chief supplier of glucose in the body, the liver is sometimes called on to convert other substances into sugar. The liver cells can make glucose out of protein and fat. This may also work in reverse: the liver cells can convert excess sugar into fat and send it for storage to other parts of the body.

In addition to these functions, the liver builds many essential proteins and stores up certain necessary vitamins until they are needed by other organs in the body.
Protective Functions. The liver disposes of worn-out blood cells by breaking them down into their different elements, storing some and sending others to the kidneys for disposal in the urine. It also filters and destroys bacteria. One of the most important functions of the liver is the detoxification of drugs, alcohol, and environmental poisons.

The liver also helps to maintain the balance of sex hormones in the body. A certain amount of female hormone is normally produced in males, and male hormone in females. When the level of this opposite sex hormone rises above a certain point, the liver takes up the excess and disposes of it.

Finally, the liver polices the proteins that have passed through the digestive system. Some of the amino acids derived from protein metabolism cannot be used by the body; the liver rejects and neutralizes these acids and sends them to the kidneys for disposal.
Liver Function Tests. There are many laboratory procedures that measure some aspect of liver functions. Serum bilirubin and urine bilirubin and urobilinogen levels provide information about the metabolism and excretion of bile pigments. Albumin and many of the alpha and beta globulins are synthesized by the liver. Disease that impairs their synthesis is shown by serum protein electrophoresis. Blood-clotting tests, such as one-stage prothrombin time, demonstrate a reduced synthesis of vitamin K–dependent coagulation factors by the liver.

There are many enzymes that occur in the liver and are released into the blood when there is liver damage or biliary obstruction. The ones most commonly determined in the laboratory are alkaline phosphatase, aspartate transaminase (AST), and alanine transaminase (ALT). AST and ALT are also commonly called (serum) glutamic-oxaloacetic transaminase (GOT or SGOT) and (serum) glutamic-pyruvic transaminase (GPT or SGPT). Alkaline phosphatase is elevated in patients with intrahepatic or extrahepatic obstruction of bile flow, as in cholestatic jaundice or in primary or metastatic carcinoma. AST and ALT are elevated in patients with hepatocellular injury as in acute viral or toxic hepatitis.

Both ultrasonography and radioisotope scans (scintiscans) are useful in demonstrating space-occupying lesions of the liver, such as cysts, abscesses, and tumors. Ultrasonography is an excellent tool for evaluating ascites or preparing for a liver biopsy. The scintiscans use technetium-99m sulfur colloid, which is taken up by the reticuloendothelial cells of the liver and spleen, or gallium-67, which has an affinity for abscesses and certain tumors. On a colloid scan, abscesses and tumors appear as filling defects or “cold spots”; on the gallium scan, they appear as “hot spots.”

A needle biopsy of the liver is useful in demonstrating the presence of cirrhosis, steatosis, alcoholic hepatitis, chronic hepatitis, and carcinoma. Liver biopsy is contraindicated in patients who have clotting defects, severe anemia, or a bacterial infection in an area to be traversed by the biopsy needle, for example, right lower lobar pneumonia.
Disorders of the Liver. The liver, with its many complex functions, can be damaged by various disorders and diseases, including hepatitis, cirrhosis, and abscess. Signs of liver damage include jaundice, ascites, uncontrolled bleeding resulting from a decrease in clotting factors, and increased sensitivity to drugs.
Liver. Bile, manufactured in the liver, is stored in the gallbladder; it passes through the bile duct into the duodenum, the upper end of the small intestine, where it aids in digestion.
fatty liver one affected with fatty infiltration, usually from alcohol abuse, jejunoileal bypass surgery, or occasionally diabetes mellitus; fat is in large droplets and the liver is enlarged but of normal consistency; patients are often asymptomatic but the condition can progress to hepatitis or cirrhosis if the underlying cause is not removed.
Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition. © 2003 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.


(liv'ĕr), [TA] Do not confuse this word with livor.
The largest gland of the body, lying beneath the diaphragm in the right hypochondrium and upper part of the epigastric region; it is of irregular shape and weighs from 1-2 kg, or about one fortieth the weight of the body. As an exocrine gland, it secretes bile; it initially receives most absorbed nutrients through the portal vein; it detoxifies drugs and many exogeneous substances and is also of great importance in fat, carbohydrate, and protein metabolism; also stores glycogen.
Synonym(s): hepar [TA]
[A.S. lifer]
Farlex Partner Medical Dictionary © Farlex 2012


1. A large, reddish-brown, glandular organ in the abdominal cavity of vertebrates that secretes bile and is active in the formation of certain blood proteins and in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
2. An organ in invertebrates that is similar to the vertebrate liver.
3. The bile-secreting organ of certain animals, used as food.
4. A dark reddish brown.
1. Made of or flavored with liver: liver pâté.
2. Of a dark reddish brown.
The American Heritage® Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2007, 2004 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

occult primary malignancy

Occult cancer, unknown primary A malignancy of unknown 1º site or origin that is symptomless, which first manifests itself as metastases or secondary–paraneoplastic phenomena, and usually has a poor prognosis; OPMs are problematic as appropriate therapy requires that the primary malignancy be eradicated, and many remain obscure despite aggressive diagnostic work-up; certain malignancies metastasize to certain sites with greater than expected frequency; in OPMs affecting the brain, the primary arises in the lungs in up to 85% Treatment Up to 30% of Pts with metastases from an occult primary adenoCA may respond to chemotherapy–mitomycin C, adriamycin, vincristine; poor response is more common in ♂ and in Pts with liver and/or infradiaphragmatic metastases
Occult primary malignancies
Bone Breast, bronchus, prostate, thyroid, kidney
CNS Breast, bronchus, kidney, colon
Head & neck Oropharynx, nasopharynx–most are squamous cell carcinoma;  also adenocarcinoma, melanoma, rhabdomyosarcoma, oat cell, salivary  gland, thyroid carcinomas
Liver CA of stomach, colon, breast, pancreas, or bronchus
Lung Breast, colon, kidney, melanoma, sarcoma, stomach, testis, thyroid
Lymph nodes
• Cervix  Naso– and oropharynx, thyroid, larynx, lymphoma
• Supraclavicular  Bronchi, breast, stomach, esophagus, pancreas, colorectal,
• Axillary  Breast, melanoma, lymphoma
• Inguinal  Urogenital tract, anus, melanoma, lymphoma
Ovary Stomach, colon
Serosal surfaces Bronchi, breast, ovary, lymphoma
Skin Melanoma, breast, bronchus, stomach, kidney  
McGraw-Hill Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


(liv'ĕr) [TA]
The largest gland of the body, lying beneath the diaphragm in the right hypochondrium and upper part of the epigastrium; it is of irregular shape and weighs from 1-2 kg, or about 1/40 the weight of the body. It secretes bile and is also of great importance in both carbohydrate and protein metabolism.
Synonym(s): hepar [TA] .
Medical Dictionary for the Health Professions and Nursing © Farlex 2012


Enlarge picture
The largest solid organ in the body, situated on the right side below the diaphragm. The liver occupies the right hypochondrium, the epigastrium, and part of the left hypochondrium, and is level with the bottom of the sternum. Its undersurface is concave and covers the stomach, duodenum, hepatic flexure of colon, right kidney, and adrenal capsule. The liver secretes bile and is the site of numerous metabolic functions. See: illustration


The liver has four lobes, five ligaments, and five fissures and is covered by a tough fibrous membrane, Glisson's capsule, which is thickest at the transverse fissure. At this point the capsule carries the blood vessels and hepatic duct, which enter the organ at the hilus. Strands of connective tissue originating from the capsule enter the liver parenchyma and form the supporting network of the organ and separate the functional units of the liver, the hepatic lobules.

The many intrahepatic bile ducts converge and anastomose, finally forming the secretory duct of the liver, the hepatic duct, which joins the cystic duct from the gallbladder to form the common bile duct or the ductus choledochus, which enters the duodenum at the papilla of Vater. A ring of smooth muscle at the terminal portion of the choledochus, the sphincter of Oddi, permits the passage of bile into the duodenum by relaxing. The bile leaving the liver enters the gallbladder, where it undergoes concentration principally through loss of water absorbed by the gallbladder mucosa. When bile is needed in the small intestine for digestive purposes, the gallbladder contracts and the sphincter relaxes, thus permitting escape of the viscid gallbladder bile. Ordinarily, the sphincter of Oddi is contracted, shutting off the duodenal entrance and forcing the bile to enter the gallbladder after leaving the liver.

The functional units of the liver are the liver lobules, six-sided aggregations of hepatocytes permeated by capillaries called sinusoids. Lining these sinusoids are Kupffer cells, the macrophages of the liver.

Blood Supply

The blood supply consists of oxygenated blood from the hepatic artery, a branch of the celiac artery, and blood from all the digestive organs and spleen by way of the portal vein. The end products of digestion and other materials thus pass through the liver before entering general circulation.

Nerve Supply

The nerve supply consists of parasympathetic fibers from the vagi and sympathetic fibers from the celiac plexus via the hepatic nerve.


The liver is one of the most metabolically active organs of the body. Amino acid metabolism: It synthesizes nonessential amino acids, deaminates excess amino acids for use in energy production, and forms urea, which the kidneys excrete. Bile production: It is responsible for the production of bile salts, which emulsify fats in the small intestine; 800 to 1000 ml of bile is secreted in 24 hr, and the secretion rate is increased greatly during digestion of meals rich in fats. Carbohydrate metabolism: It converts monosaccharides other than glucose to glucose, and stores excess glucose as the starch glycogen, until such energy is needed. Detoxification: It produces enzymes to metabolize potentially harmful substances found in the portal circulation (e.g., alcohol, ammonia, indole, many medications, and skatole) into less toxic ones. Endocrine functions: It facilitates the conversion of levothyroxine to the more metabolically active thyroid hormone, triiodothyronine. Excretion: It discharges the breakdown products of hemoglobin (bilirubin and biliverdin) into the bile; these are eliminated in feces. Fat metabolism: It synthesizes cholesterol as well as lipoproteins for the transport of fat to other body tissues; it converts fatty acids to acetyl groups or ketones, so they may be used as energy sources. Phagocytosis: Its macrophages (Kupffer cells) scavenge bacteria, other pathogens, and senescent red blood cells from the portal circulation. Protein synthesis: It manufactures albumin, alpha-globulins and beta-globulins, complement components, and clotting factors, some of which are dependent on vitamin K. Storage: It stores copper, iron, vitamin B12, and the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.


The liver is examined by inspection, auscultation, percussion, and palpation. Inspection of the organ includes indirect assessments (e.g., for jaundice [skin color], palmar erythema, and spider telangiectasias and other signs of chronic liver disease. Auscultation of the liver may reveal bruits associated with liver cancer; auscultation also is used to make a crude estimate of organ size. Percussion of the liver, which is performed in the right midclavicular line, provides another method for roughly estimating size. Palpation of the organ may reveal tenderness, irregular edges, masses, or tumors.

amyloid liver

An enlargement of the liver caused by the deposition of amyloid proteins. Synonym: lardaceous liver


The liver is enlarged, smooth, firm, and painless. Infiltration of other organs may cause kidney failure, intercerebral bleeding, heart failure, anemia, and other diseases and conditions.


The prognosis is unfavorable.

artificial liver

A biomechanical device typically combining a system of filters to remove toxins from the blood with hepatic cells or tissue. It is designed to support patients with hepatic failure temporarily until a donor liver becomes available for transplantation.

biliary cirrhotic liver

Cirrhosis of the liver caused by fibrous tissue formed, as a result of infection or obstruction of the bile ducts.

fatty liver

Degenerative changes in liver cells owing to fat deposits in hepatocytes.
Synonym: steatohepatitis

floating liver

An easily displaced liver. Synonym: wandering liver

foamy liver

The presence of gas bubbles in the liver as a result of infection with anaerobic bacteria. This produces a honeycomb appearance in the liver tissue.

hobnail liver

Degeneration of the liver characterized by fatty changes, fibrous scarring, nodular degeneration, and atrophy of the liver with the surface covered with brown or yellow nodules. This condition is seen in chronic alcoholism and malnutrition.

lardaceous liver

Amyloid liver.

nutmeg liver

Chronic passive congestion of the liver, which produces a reddened central portal area and a yellowish periportal zone.

shock liver

A colloquial term for injury to the liver resulting from insufficient blood flow, e.g., in patients who have suffered an episode of severe hypotension. A hallmark of this condition is a sudden and marked elevation in liver enzyme levels, such as alanine aminotransferase (ALT).

wandering liver

Floating liver.
Medical Dictionary, © 2009 Farlex and Partners


The largest organ of the ABDOMEN occupying the upper right corner and extending across the midline to the left side. It is wedge-shaped, with the thin edge pointing to the left, of a spongy consistency, reddish-brown in colour and moulded to fit under the domed DIAPHRAGM so that most of it lies behind the ribs. The liver receives chemical substances in the blood, especially in the nutrient-rich blood from the intestines (glucose, amino acids, fats, minerals and vitamins) and processes these according to the needs of the body. It takes up the products of old red blood cells and converts these into a pigment, bilirubin, which together with other substances, form the bile. It breaks down toxic substances into safer forms. Ammonia produced from protein breakdown is converted into urea, which is excreted in the urine. Alcohol and other drugs are altered to safer forms. To a remarkable degree, the liver is able to regenerate itself after disease, toxic damage or injury. But if this capacity is exceeded, functional liver cells form nodules and are replaced by inert fibrous tissue (CIRRHOSIS) and the whole function of the body is severely affected.
Collins Dictionary of Medicine © Robert M. Youngson 2004, 2005


the largest and most complex organ of the vertebrate body, with a wide range of functions (see below).several of which are vital for life to continue. In mammals the liver receives a double blood supply, about 70% coming from the HEPATIC PORTAL SYSTEM and 30% from the arterial system. The liver performs the following functions:
  1. removes excess glucose from the blood and stores it as GLYCOGEN.
  2. converts glycogen back to glucose when blood sugar levels are low.
  3. converts food substances to other types, e.g. carbohydrates into fats, amino acids into carbohydrates or fats.
  4. deaminates amino acids, converting the ammonia produced into urea via the ORNITHINE CYCLE, releasing the nitrogenous wastes into the blood.
  5. transaminates amino acids (see TRANSAMINATION from one type to another via keto acids.
  6. detoxifies many harmful compounds.
  7. manufacturers fats, including cholesterol. (h) manufacturers many plasma proteins, including FIBRINOGEN and PROTHROMBIN.
  8. stores several important substances, e.g. iron and fat-soluble vitamins.
  9. excretes bile pigments.
  10. manufacturers bile salts.
  11. destroys worn-out red blood cells.
Collins Dictionary of Biology, 3rd ed. © W. G. Hale, V. A. Saunders, J. P. Margham 2005


A solid organ located on the right in the upper abdomen. It plays a major role in metabolism, digestion, detoxification, and elimination of substances from the body.
Mentioned in: Interactions
Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


(liv'ĕr) [TA]
The largest gland of the body, lying beneath the diaphragm in the right hypochondrium and upper part of the epigastric region; it is of irregular shape and weighs from 1-2 kg, or about one fortieth weight of body. Detoxifies drugs and many exogeneous substances and is also of great importance in fat, carbohydrate, and protein metabolism.
Medical Dictionary for the Dental Professions © Farlex 2012

Patient discussion about liver

Q. Why do I have Fatty Liver? I have just had a complete overhaul regarding my health and thankfully the only thing that came back was that I had fatty liver, now I don`t drink, never have, I`m not desperately overweight although have lost 4 stone over a period of time, and I like to think that I eat sensibly, salads, fruit, veg.. Any thoughts anyone?

A. The scholars investigate and find, eight in ten fat people have fatty liver. The main reason is that a large amount of dissociative fat acid in blood is gradually transferred to liver and this overburdens the metabolism ability of liver then leads the fat accumulated and finally the fatty liver formed. More than half the patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus associated with fatty liver. Dextrose and fat acid can’t get a good use and obstacle appears in lipoprotein synthesizing. When dextrose and fat acid change into fat in liver, this will lead fat accumulation and finally fatty liver formed.
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Hope this helps.

Q. What are the risks of cirrhosis of liver? My dad has cirrhosis and I would like to know what are the risks and how does it get treated.

A. Death!

Q. What is Liver Cirrhosis? I read that alcohol can lead to liver cirrhosis. What does cirrhosis mean?

A. The word "cirrhosis" is a neologism that derives from Greek kirrhos, meaning "orange-yellow". In this condition, the liver appears yellow in pathology from all the tissue changes and damage caused to it. Cirrhosis has many possible causes. Sometimes more than one cause is present in the same patient. In the Western World, chronic alcoholism and hepatitis C are the most common causes. The sick liver gradually loses its function, therefore leading to end stage liver disease that ultimately requires liver transplant.

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References in periodicals archive ?
Embryotoxic and fetotoxic effects, combined with very strong CYP1A1 induction in the placenta and in the maternal and fetal livers, were also recorded after the administration of hexachloronaphthalene to the dams [20].
Indeed, unlike Cheng and coauthors who analyzed mixed fetal tissues, we investigated the fetal liver tissue only.
Data are from 3 different reconstitution cohorts with [CD34.sup.+] cells derived from 3 different fetal liver tissues.
FMO5 is highly abundant in the adult liver and the amount of FMO5 in the fetal liver, small intestine, kidney and lung is 18.8%, 12.8%, 9.8% and 4% of the amount of FMO5 in the liver, respectively.
Chen, "Maternally administered melatonin differentially regulates lipopolysaccharide-induced proinflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines in maternal serum, amniotic fluid, fetal liver, and fetal brain," Journal of Pineal Research, vol.
On GD 14.5, fetal liver hematopoietic progenitors were harvested for the limiting dilution experiment as described above.
Trisomy 21 creates an environment, in utero, in which hematopoietic progenitor cells within fetal liver are primed for acquisition of either single or multiple somatic GATA1 mutations that reflect a "secondary hit," thereby promoting hematopoietic dysregulation and emergence of TAM.
To do that, the biologists took immune deficient laboratory mice and grafted into their bodies human fetal thymus tissues and hematopoietic stem cells derived from fetal liver of the same human donor.
The fetal liver is one of the most important organs to be analyzed in a perinatal autopsy due to its metabolic functions during the fetal development [4,5].
Fragments of human fetal liver and thymus are injected under kidney capsule.
A smaller fraction of unconjugated bilirubin is conjugated by the fetal liver. Because conjugated bilirubin does not cross the placenta from the fetal into the maternal circulation, it is excreted into the fetal bile or amniotic fluid, where it is then transferred to the maternal circulation.
Simultaneous with the appearance of hematopoiesis in the fetal liver, HSC can be detected in the fetal liver.