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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

About Your Liver

Liver Anatomy

The liver is found in the upper right-hand side of the abdomen under the ribs. It is a dark reddish-brown organ that weighs about three pounds. The liver has a right lobe and a left lobe. Blood enters the liver from the hepatic artery and the hepatic portal vein and leaves the liver from the hepatic vein. The blood from the artery carries oxygen while the portal vein carries nutrients from the intestine.

The liver holds about 13 percent of the body's blood supply at any given moment. Inside the two lobes is a network of tubes, also called the biliary tree that carries bile from the liver to the intestine.

Bile is a substance that helps carry away wastes and is needed for the breakdown and absorption of dietary fats. Each tube is called a duct. Smaller ducts connect to larger ducts. The larger ducts join to form the hepatic duct. This duct network allows bile to drain out of the liver.

The liver does over 500 jobs. Some of the jobs include:
  • Storing energy
  • Helping build muscles
  • Stopping cuts from bleeding
  • Killing germs, helping keep the body healthy
  • Making bile to help digest foods
  • Keeping pollutants from hurting the body
  • Filtering toxic chemicals from the body

Many of the liver's jobs are related to nutrition. It is very important to understand and respond to your child's nutritional needs. As it relates to nutrition, the liver works to:

  • Break down the major nutrients in foods (protein, fats and carbohydrates)
  • Store vitamins A, D, E and K
  • Build proteins
  • Remove waste products of nutrient breakdown
  • Make and secrete bile

  • Acute Liver Failure. When a large portion of the liver becomes damaged and cannot function effectively, this is called acute liver failure.
  • Alcoholic liver disease. Alcohol affects many of your body's organs, but one of the most commonly affected is the liver. It can lead to three main types of liver problems: fatty liver, hepatitis, and cirrhosis.
  • Autoimmune hepatitis. In some cases, no obvious reason is found for chronic hepatitis. A person's immune system seems to be overactive. About 70 percent of these cases are in women.
  • Cancer of the liver.Tumors in the liver may be cancerous or non-cancerous. Primary liver cancers include hepatocellular carcinoma, cholangiocarcinoma, hepatoblastoma, angiosarcoma, epithelioid hemangioendothelioma, multiple / massive hepatic adenoma / hepatoma, which begins in the liver cells.
  • Cholestatic liver disorders. Cholestasis is a reduction or stoppage of bile flow. Causes can include liver or pancreatic cancer, hepatitis, alcoholic liver disease, cirrhosis or bile duct stones.
  • Fatty liver. This is not a disease but a description of a liver in which too many fat cells have accumulated. It's most common in people who are overweight or who have diabetes.
  • Hemochromatosis and other metabolic disorders. It is a common genetic condition that causes body to absorb too much iron. Untreated, it can lead to liver disease. Other metabolic disorders : Alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency, Wilson's disease, galactosemia, tyrosinemia, and glycogen storage diseases.
  • Hepatitis. There are several forms of hepatitis, which is an inflammation of the liver caused by one of several viruses, toxic agents or autoimmune disorders.
  • Chronic viral hepatitis B / C – Both are serious and common disorder that also can progress to cirrhosis and liver cancer. It is caused by the hepatitis B or C virus and is spread mainly through blood.
  • Primary biliary cirrhosis. This chronic disease slowly destroys the bile ducts in the liver. It is ten times more common in women than in men.
  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis. Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) is a disease in which the bile ducts inside and outside of the liver become narrowed due to inflammation and scarring. This causes bile to accumulate in the liver, which can damage liver cells.
  • Sarcoidosis.The cause of this disease is unknown. It causes nests of cells to appear in the liver, lungs and lymph nodes and affects African-Americans more than other ethnic groups.
Cirrhosis is a term that refers to a group of chronic diseases of the liver in which normal liver cells are damaged and replaced by scar tissue, decreasing the amount of normal liver tissue.

Cirrhosis can be caused by many things, some known and others unknown:
  • Alcohol -- Using alcohol in excess is the most common cause of cirrhosis
  • Chronic Viral Hepatitis -- Type B and Type C hepatitis, and perhaps other viruses, can infect and damage the liver over a prolonged time and eventually cause cirrhosis.
  • Chronic Bile Duct Blockage -- This condition can occur at birth (biliary atresia) or develop later in life (primary biliary cirrhosis). The cause of the latter remains unknown. When the bile ducts outside the liver become narrowed and blocked, the condition is called primary sclerosing cholangitis. This condition is often associated with chronic ulceration of the colon (colitis).
  • Abnormal Storage of Copper (Wilson's Disease) or Iron (Hemochromatosis) -- These metals are present in all body cells. When abnormal amounts of them accumulate in the liver, scarring and cirrhosis may develop.
  • Drugs and Toxins -- Prolonged exposure to certain chemicals or drugs can scar the liver.
  • Autoimmune Hepatitis -- This chronic inflammation occurs when the body's protective antibodies fail to recognize the liver as its own tissue. The antibodies injure the liver cells as though they were a foreign protein or bacteria.
  • Cystic Fibrosis and Alpha l-antitrypsin Deficiency -- These disorders are inherited.

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