top of page

What is the Liver?






The liver is a large, meaty organ that sits on the right side of the belly. Weighing about 3 pounds, the liver is reddish-brown in color and feels rubbery to the touch. Normally you can't feel the liver, because it's protected by the rib cage.


The liver's main job is to filter the blood coming from the digestive tract, before passing it to the rest of the body. The liver also detoxifies chemicals and metabolizes drugs. As it does so, the liver secretes bile that ends up back in the intestines. The liver also makes proteins important for blood clotting and other functions.

  • Hepatitis

    • Inflammation of the liver, usually caused by viruses like hepatitis A, B, and C. Hepatitis can have non-infectious causes too, including heavy drinking, drugs, allergic reactions, or obesity.


  • Cirrhosis

    • Long-term damage to the liver from any cause can lead to permanent scarring, called cirrhosis. The liver then becomes unable to function well.


  • Liver cancer

    • The most common type of liver cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma, almost always occurs after cirrhosis is present.


  • Liver failure

    • Liver failure has many causes including infection, genetic diseases, and excessive alcohol.


  • Ascites

    • As cirrhosis results, the liver leaks fluid (ascites) into the belly, which becomes distended and heavy.


  • Gallstones

    • If a gallstone becomes stuck in the bile duct draining the liver, hepatitis and bile duct infection (cholangitis) can result.


  • Hemochromatosis

    • Hemochromatosis allows iron to deposit in the liver, damaging it. The iron also deposits throughout the body, causing multiple other health problems.


  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis

    • A rare disease with unknown causes, primary sclerosing cholangitis causes inflammation and scarring in the bile ducts in the liver.


  • Primary biliary cirrhosis

    • In this rare disorder, an unclear process slowly destroys the bile ducts in the liver. Permanent liver scarring (cirrhosis) eventually develops.

Signs & Symptoms


  • Skin and eyes that appear yellowish (jaundice)

  • Abdominal pain and swelling

  • Swelling in the legs and ankles

  • Itchy skin

  • Dark urine color

  • Pale stool color, or bloody or tar-colored stool

  • Chronic fatigue

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Loss of appetite

  • Tendency to bruise easily


How do you know if it’s something to worry about?


Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any persistent signs or symptoms that worry you.

Seek immediate medical attention if you have abdominal pain that is so severe that you can't stay still.

How are liver conditions / diseases diagnosed?


  • Blood Tests


  • Liver function panel

    • A liver function panel checks how well the liver is working and consists of many different blood tests.


  • ALT (Alanine Aminotransferase)

    • An elevated ALT helps identify liver disease or damage from any number of causes, including hepatitis.


  • AST (Aspartate Aminotransferase)

    • Along with an elevated ALT, the AST checks for liver damage.


  • Alkaline phosphatase

    • Alkaline phosphatase is present in bile-secreting cells in the liver; it's also in bones. High levels often mean bile flow out of the liver is blocked.


  • Bilirubin

    • High bilirubin levels suggest a problem with the liver.


  • Albumin

    • As part of total protein levels, albumin helps determine how well the liver is working.


  • Ammonia

    • Ammonia levels in the blood rise when the liver is not functioning properly.


  • Hepatitis A tests

    • If hepatitis A is suspected, the doctor will test liver function as well as antibodies to detect the hepatitis A virus.


  • Hepatitis B tests

    • Your doctor can test antibody levels to determine if you have been infected with the hepatitis B virus.


  • Hepatitis C tests

    • In addition to checking liver function, blood tests can determine if you have been infected with the hepatitis C virus.


  • Prothrombin Time (PT)

    • A prothrombin time, or PT, is commonly done to see if someone is taking the correct dose of the blood thinner warfarin (Coumadin). It also checks for blood clotting problems.


  • Partial Thromboplastin Time (PTT)

    • A PTT is done to check for blood clotting problems.


  • Imaging Tests


  • Ultrasound

    • An abdominal ultrasound can test for many liver conditions, including cancer, cirrhosis, or problems from gallstones.


  • CT scan (computed tomography)

    • A CT scan of the abdomen gives detailed pictures of the liver and other abdominal organs.


  • Liver biopsy

    • A liver biopsy is most commonly done after another test, such as a blood test or ultrasound, indicates a possible liver problem.


  • Liver and spleen scan

    • This nuclear scan uses radioactive material to help diagnose a number of conditions, including abscesses, tumors, and other liver function problems.

Treatment Options


  • Hepatitis A treatment

    • Hepatitis A usually goes away with time.


  • Hepatitis B treatment

    • Chronic hepatitis B often requires treatment with antiviral medication.


  • Hepatitis C treatment

    • Treatment for hepatitis C depends on several factors.


  • Liver transplant

    • A liver transplant is needed when the liver no longer functions adequately, whatever the cause.


  • Liver cancer treatment

    • While liver cancer is usually difficult to cure, treatment consists of chemotherapy and radiation. In some cases, surgical resection or liver transplantation is performed. Single Incision Laparoscopic (SILS) Liver Surgeries are the latest, and perhaps most preferred method of surgery, where applicable.


  • Liver Resection


  • Every patient with a liver tumor should be evaluated for a resection. It is the only chance for cure. Removing the tumor will rid the body of the cancer and also prevent further spread to other regions.


  • The liver is a privileged organ in that it has the ability to regenerate if part of it is removed and this allows surgeons to operate upon it successfully. In patients with colon cancer that has spread to the liver, liver resection can cure 25 - 45% of the patients.


  • Single Incision Laparoscopic (SILS) Liver Surgeries include:


  • Radiofrequency ablation of liver tumors

  • Laparoscopic liver resection (removal)

  • Laparoscopic wedge resection of the liver

  • Laparoscopic left lateral segment removal

  • Laparoscopic right Hepatectomy


  • Paracentesis

    • When severe ascites -- swelling in the belly from liver failure -- causes discomfort, a needle can be inserted through the skin to drain fluid from the abdomen.


  • ERCP (Endocscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography)

    • Using a long, flexible tube with a camera and tools on the end, doctors can diagnose and even treat some liver problems. 



  • Drink alcohol in moderation.

    • For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger.

    • Heavy or high-risk drinking is defined as more than three drinks on any day or more than seven drinks a week for women and for men older than age 65, and more than four drinks on any day or more than 14 drinks a week for men age 65 and younger.


  • Avoid risky behavior.

    • Get help if you use illicit intravenous drugs, and don't share needles used to inject drugs.

    • Use a condom during sex.

    • If you choose to have tattoos or body piercings, be picky about cleanliness and safety when selecting a shop.


  • Get vaccinated.

    • If you're at increased risk of contracting hepatitis or if you've already been infected with any form of the hepatitis virus, talk to your doctor about getting the hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccines.


  • Use medications wisely.

    • Take prescription and nonprescription drugs only when needed and only in recommended doses.

    • Don't mix medications and alcohol.

    • Talk to your doctor before mixing herbal supplements or prescription or nonprescription drugs.


  • Avoid contact with other people's blood and body fluids.

    • Hepatitis viruses can be spread by accidental needle sticks or improper cleanup of blood or body fluids.


  • Take care with aerosol sprays.

    • Make sure the room is ventilated, and wear a mask when spraying insecticides, fungicides, paint and other toxic chemicals.

    • Always follow the manufacturer's instructions.


  • Protect your skin.

    • When using insecticides and other toxic chemicals, wear gloves, long sleeves, a hat and a mask.


  • Maintain a healthy weight.

    • Obesity can cause nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

What are liver conditions problems / diseases / illnesses

bottom of page