Liver (cont.)

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How large is the liver?

The liver weighs about three and a half pounds (1.6 kilograms). It measures on average, about 8 inches (20 cm) horizontally (across), and 6.5 inches (17 cm) vertically (down), and is 4.5 inches (12 cm) thick.

Where is the liver located (liver anatomy)?

The liver is located just below the diaphragm (the muscular membrane separating the chest from the abdomen), primarily in the upper right part of the abdomen, mostly under the ribs. However, it also extends across the middle of the upper abdomen and part way into the left upper abdomen. An irregularly shaped, dome-like solid structure, the liver consists of two main parts (a larger right lobe and a smaller left lobe) and two minor lobes. As you can see in the diagram below, the upper border of the right lobe is at the level of the top of the 5th rib (a little less than 1/2 inch below the nipple), and the upper border of the left lobe is just below the 5th rib (about 3/4 inch below the nipple). During inspiration (breathing in), the liver is pushed down by the diaphragm and the lower edge of the liver descends below the margin of the lowest rib (costal margin).

Picture of the liver and where it is located in the abdomen
Picture of the liver and where it is located in the abdomen

What is the function of the liver?

The liver has a multitude of important and complex functions. Some of these functions are to:

  • Manufacture (synthesize) proteins, including albumin (to help maintain the volume of blood) and blood clotting factors
  • Synthesize, store, and process (metabolize) fats, including fatty acids (used for energy) and cholesterol
  • Metabolize and store carbohydrates, which are used as the source for the sugar (glucose) in blood that red blood cells and the brain use
  • Form and secrete bile that contains bile acids to aid in the intestinal absorption of fats and the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
  • Eliminate, by metabolizing and/or secreting, the potentially harmful biochemical products produced by the body, such as bilirubin from the breakdown of old red blood cells, and ammonia from the breakdown of proteins
  • Detoxify, by metabolizing and/or secreting, drugs, alcohol, and environmental toxins
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/21/2014

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