Liver Cancer

The Liver – Characteristics and Purpose

Many people have heard of cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer. But few people really know what the liver does and why it’s so important. This article reveals interesting facts and information about this often misunderstood organ known as the human liver.

About the liver

The liver is the largest gland in the body. It is the second largest organ in the body next to skin. It weighs 1300 gm to 3000 grams. It is about 1/18th of the total body weight in the children and about 1/50th of the total body weight in adults.

The liver is an important organ in the body related to synthesis of various proteins, storage of glucose, certain vitamins and metabolism of carbohydrate, protein and fats and detoxification of certain unwanted chemicals in the body.

The liver is a reddish brown wedge shaped organ occupying the right upper quadrant of the abdomen called the right hypochondrium. It extends into the upper middle quadrant called the epigastrium and the left upper quadrant called the left hypochondrium.

The liver is anatomically divided in to right and left lobe by the falcifiform ligament and the ligamentum venosum.

The liver is functionally divided in to right and left lobes by the right and the left hepatic ducts.

Furthermore, the liver is also divided in to eight functional lobes by the 8 branches of the hepatic artery.

Characteristics and location of the liver

The liver is covered by two layers of a smooth material called the peritoneum all over its surface, except a small portion on the superior surface on its back called Bare area of Liver.” This covering is called the Glissons capsule. This covering is reflected onto the neighboring structures forming different structures called

  • Falciform ligament
  • Coronary ligaments
  • Triangular ligaments
  • Lesser omentum

The liver is surrounded by a number of other important organs, including the

  • Stomach
  • Pancreas
  • Large intestine
  • Small intestine
  • Diaphragm
  • Gall bladder

How Does the Liver Work?

Food is absorbed and taken to liver where it is either stored or metabolized into other products for utilization by the body. Some of the important functions of the liver are;

  • Storage of glucose in a form called glycogen
  • Synthesis of proteins like albumin, blood clotting factors
  • Mobilization and degradation of fats and cholesterol
  • Mobilization of protein to other parts of the body
  • Degradation and detoxification of toxic products like ammonia in to urea (Liver is sometimes called the “Urea Plant”)
  • Degradation of drugs
  • Degradation of hemoglobin in to bilirubin
  • Synthesis of bile and bile salts
  • Storage of certain vitamins like Vitamin A

Liver can be affected by a number of viruses, bacteria, drugs, diseases–some of which can be life threatening.

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