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|Liver of a sheep: (1) right lobe, (2) left lobe, (3) caudate lobe, (4) quadrate lobe, (5) hepatic artery and portal vein, (6) hepatic lymph nodes, (7) gall bladder.|
|Gray's||subject #250 1188|
The liver is an organ in some animals, including vertebrates (and therefore humans). It plays a major role in metabolism and has a number of functions in the body including glycogen storage, plasma protein synthesis, and drug detoxification. This organ also is the largest gland in the human body and lies beneath the diaphragm in the upper right portion of the abdomen. It produces bile, which is important in digestion. It performs and regulates a wide variety of high-volume biochemical reactions requiring specialized tissues. Medical terms related to the liver often start in hepato- or hepatic from the Greek word for liver, hepar.
The adult human liver normally weighs between 1.7 - 3.0 kilograms (3.7 - 6.5 pounds), and it is a soft, pinkish-brown "boomerang shaped" organ. It is the second largest organ (the largest organ being the skin) and the largest gland within the human body.
Flow of blood
The splenic vein, joins with the inferior mesenteric vein, which then together join with the superior mesenteric vein to form the portal vein, bringing venous blood from the spleen, pancreas, small intestine, and large intestine, so that the liver can process the nutrients and byproducts of food digestion.
Approximately 3/4 of the blood flow to the liver is from the portal venous system, and 1/4 is from the hepatic artery.
Flow of bile
These eventually drain into the right and left hepatic ducts, which in turn merge to form the common hepatic duct. The cystic duct (from the gallbladder) joins with the common hepatic duct to form the common bile duct.
Bile can either drain directly into the duodenum via the common bile duct or be temporarily stored in the gallbladder via the cystic duct. The common bile duct and the pancreatic duct enter the duodenum together at the ampulla of Vater.
This is predominantly due to the hepatocytes acting as unipotential stem cells (i.e. a single hepatocyte can divide into two hepatocyte daughter cells). There is also some evidence of bipotential stem cells, called oval cells, which can differentiate into either hepatocytes or cholangiocytes (cells that line the bile ducts).
Traditional (Surface) anatomy
Apart from a patch where it connects to the diaphragm, the liver is covered entirely by visceral peritoneum, a thin, double-layered membrane that reduces friction against other organs. The peritoneum folds back on itself to form the falciform ligament and the right and left triangular ligaments.
Traditional gross anatomy divided the liver into four lobes based on surface features.
If the liver is flipped over, to look at it from behind (the visceral surface), there are two additional lobes between the right and left. These are the caudate lobe (the more superior), and below this the quadrate lobe.
From behind, the lobes are divided up by the ligamentum venosum and ligamentum teres (anything left of these is the left lobe), the transverse fissure (or porta hepatis) divides the caudate from the quadrate lobe, and the right sagittal fossa, which the inferior vena cava runs over, separates these two lobes from the right lobe.
Modern (Functional) anatomy
The central area where the common bile duct, portal vein, and hepatic artery enter the liver is the hilum or "porta hepatis". The duct, vein, and artery divide into left and right branches, and the portions of the liver supplied by these branches constitute the functional left and right lobes.
The functional lobes are separated by a plane joining the gallbladder fossa to the inferior vena cava. This separates the liver into the true right and left lobes. The middle hepatic vein also demarcates the true right and left lobes. The right lobe is further divided into an anterior and posterior segment by the right hepatic vein. The left lobe is divided into the medial and lateral segments by the left hepatic vein. The fissure for the ligamentum teres (the ligamentum teres becomes the falciform ligament) also separates the medial and lateral segmants. The medial segment is what used to be called the quadrate lobe. In the widely used Couinaud or "French" system, the functional lobes are further divided into a total of eight subsegments based on a transverse plane through the bifurcation of the main portal vein. The caudate lobe is a separate structure which receives blood flow from both the right- and left-sided vascular branches. The subsegments corresponding to the anatomical lobes are as follows:
|Right||5, 6, 7, 8|
- or lobe in the Caudate's case.
Each number in the list corresponds to one in the table.
- Superior subsegment of the lateral segment
- Inferior subsegment of the lateral segment
- Superior subsegment of the medial segment
- Inferior subsegment of the medial segment
- Inferior subsegment of the anterior segment
- Inferior subsegment of the posterior segment
- Superior subsegment of the posterior segment
- Superior subsegment of the anterior segment
The various functions of the liver are carried out by the liver cells or hepatocytes.
- The liver produces and excretes bile required for emulsifying fats. Some of the bile drains directly into the duodenum, and some is stored in the gallbladder.
- The liver performs several roles in carbohydrate metabolism:
- Gluconeogenesis (the synthesis of glucose from certain amino acids, lactate or glycerol)
- Glycogenolysis (the breakdown of glycogen into glucose) (muscle tissues can also do this)
- Glycogenesis (the formation of glycogen from glucose)
- The breakdown of insulin and other hormones
- The liver is responsible for the mainstay of protein metabolism.
- The liver also performs several roles in lipid metabolism:
- The liver produces coagulation factors I (fibrinogen), II (prothrombin), V, VII, IX, X and XI, as well as protein C, protein S and antithrombin.
- The liver breaks down haemoglobin, creating metabolites that are added to bile as pigment (bilirubin and biliverdin).
- The liver breaks down toxic substances and most medicinal products in a process called drug metabolism. This sometimes results in toxication, when the metabolite is more toxic than its precursor.
- The liver converts ammonia to urea.
- The liver stores a multitude of substances, including glucose in the form of glycogen, vitamin B12, iron, and copper.
- In the first trimester fetus, the liver is the main site of red blood cell production. By the 32nd week of gestation, the bone marrow has almost completely taken over that task.
- The liver is responsible for immunological effects- the reticuloendothelial system of the liver contains many immunologically active cells, acting as a 'sieve' for antigens carried to it via the portal system.
Diseases of the liver
Many diseases of the liver are accompanied by jaundice caused by increased levels of bilirubin in the system. The bilirubin results from the breakup of the hemoglobin of dead red blood cells; normally, the liver removes bilirubin from the blood and excretes it through bile.
- Main article: Liver disorders
- Main article: Liver transplantation
Liver transplantation is the only option for those with irreversible liver failure. Most transplants are done for chronic liver diseases leading to cirrhosis, such as chronic hepatitis C, alcoholism, autoimmune hepatitis, and many others. Less commonly, liver transplantation is done for fulminant hepatic failure, in which liver failure occurs over days to weeks.
Liver allografts for transplant usually come from non-living donors who have died from fatal brain injury. Living donor liver transplantation is a technique in which a portion of a living person's liver is removed and used to replace the entire liver of the recipient. This was first performed in 1989 for pediatric liver transplantation. Only 20% of an adult's liver (Couinaud segments 2 and 3) is needed to serve as a liver allograft for an infant or small child.
More recently, adult-to-adult liver transplantation has been done using the donor's right hepatic lobe which amounts to 60% of the liver. Due to the ability of the liver to regenerate, both the donor and recipient end up with normal liver function if all goes well. This procedure is more controversial as it entails performing a much larger operation on the donor, and indeed there have been at least 2 donor deaths out of the first several hundred cases. A recent publication has addressed the problem of donor mortality, and at least 14 cases have been found. The risk of postoperative complications (and death) is far greater in right sided hepatectomy than left sided operations.
The liver develops as an endodermal outpocketing of the foregut called the hepatic diverticulum. Its initial blood supply is primarily from the vitelline veins that drain blood from the yolk sac. The superior part of the hepatic diverticulum gives rise to the hepatocytes and bile ducts, while the inferior part becomes the gallbladder and its associated cystic duct.
Fetal blood supply
In the growing fetus, a major source of blood to the liver is the umbilical vein which supplies nutrients to the growing fetus. The umbilical vein enters the abdomen at the umbilicus, and passes upward along the free margin of the falciform ligament of the liver to the inferior surface of the liver. There it joins with the left branch of the portal vein. The ductus venosus carries blood from the left portal vein to the left hepatic vein and then to the inferior vena cava, allowing placental blood to bypass the liver.
In the fetus, the liver develops throughout normal gestation, and does not perform the normal filtration of the infant liver. The liver does not perform digestive processes because the fetus does not consume meals directly, but receives nourishment from the mother via the placenta. The fetal liver releases some blood stem cells that migrate to the fetal thymus, so initially the lymphocytes, called T-cells, are created from fetal liver stem cells. Once the fetus is delivered, the formation of blood stem cells in infants shifts to the red bone marrow.
After birth, the umbilical vein and ductus venosus are completely obliterated two to five days postpartum; the former becomes the ligamentum teres and the latter becomes the ligamentum venosum. In the disease state of cirrhosis and portal hypertension, the umbilical vein can open up again.
Liver as food
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
|Energy 130 kcal 560 kJ|
|Beef and chicken liver are comparable.
Percentages are relative to US
recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient database</td></tr></table>
Both animal and fish livers are rich in iron and Vitamin A and cod liver oil is commonly used as a supplement. Very high doses of Vitamin A can be toxic; Antarctic explorers Douglas Mawson and Xavier Mertz were both poisoned, the latter fatally, from eating husky liver. In the US, the USDA specifies 3000 μg per day as a tolerable upper limit, which amounts to about 50 g of raw pork liver or, as reported in a non scientific source, 3 g of polar-bear liver. However, acute vitamin A poisoning is not likely to result from liver consumption, since it is present in a less toxic form than in many dietary supplements.
In Greek mythology, Prometheus was punished by the gods for revealing fire to humans by being chained to a rock where a vulture (or an eagle, Ethon) would peck out his liver, which would regenerate overnight. Curiously, the liver is the only human internal organ that actually can regenerate itself to a significant extent, a characteristic which may have already been known to the Greeks, possibly due to survived injuries in battle.
The legend of Liver-Eating Johnson says that he would cut out and eat the liver of each man killed.