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Liver

From Old Greek: hepar - Leber
German: Leber

1 Definition

The liver is the central organ of the entire metabolism. The most important functions of this organ are:

  • Decomposition and expulsion of substances
  • Production of essential proteins
  • Utilization of food components

2 Overview

The liver is the largest digestive gland in the adult human body. It generates several blood proteins, antibodies and bile, and is the main detoxification organ. Almost all nutriments that are absorbed in the blood from the intestine initially arrive at the liver, and then based on requirement these are released into the blood or eliminated from the blood. Other functions of the liver are the storage of vitamins and the synthesis of initial products for hormone production.

3 Anatomy

The liver of a human adult weighs approximately between 1400 and 1800 gm. It is a soft, fairly smooth structured organ that is situated in the right upper abdomen. The liver can be macroscopically subdivided into 4 different lobes:

  • Lobus hepatis dexter
  • Lobus hepatis sinister
  • Lobus quadratus hepatis
  • Lobus caudatus hepatis

For further details see: Liver anatomy

4 Functions

The liver is closely involved in the metabolism of glucose, fat and proteins. Glucose is absorbed from the intestinal blood supply and passes it on to the rest of the body in a controlled way. A surplus is stored as glycogen. In times of hunger, the stored substance is metabolized to glucose. The liver influences the blood sugar level through the control of hormones (e.g. insulin) and can keep it constant independent of the food supply. Insulin activates the "burning" of the sugar in the liver and checks the decomposition of fat.

4.1 Overview

5 Liver enzymes

In case of liver diseases, the blood test shows valuable evidences of the type and extent of the disease. Enzymes are needed in the liver, like elsewhere in the body, to sustain its metabolic activities. In case of damage to the liver cells, these enzymes can be found in increased quantities in the blood serum. Based on the increase in the type of enzyme, one can infer the type of the disease. The magnitude of the enzyme increase corresponds to the extent of the damage to the liver cells. Cell damages can be caused by, among others, virus infections, alcohol, poisoning or tumors.

All enzymes in the liver cells can also be found in other body cells, like for instance in the heart and skeletal muscles.

The liver enzymes often measured are:

1:The GGT is one of the most sensitive parameters for damages of the liver cells and the bile duct system.

6 Diagnostics

7 Important liver diseases

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