Anatomy and Function of the Liver

  • Medical Author:
    Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM

    Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

  • Medical Editor: Bhupinder S. Anand, MBBS, MD, DPHIL (OXON)
    Bhupinder S. Anand, MBBS, MD, DPHIL (OXON)

    Bhupinder S. Anand, MBBS, MD, DPHIL (OXON)

    Dr. Anand received MBBS degree from Medical College Amritsar, University of Punjab. He completed his Internal Medicine residency at the Postgraduate Institute of medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, India. He was trained in the field of Gastroenterology and obtained the DPhil degree. Dr. Anand is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Take the Liver Disease Quiz

What is a liver biopsy?

Most often, diseases of the liver can be diagnosed by history, physical examination, and blood tests. On occasion, should the diagnosis be unclear or to assess the degree of damage to the liver, a liver biopsy may be necessary.

Using a very thin needle, a gastroenterologist or hepatologist (two types of liver specialists) or an interventional radiologist will insert a very fine needle through the skin and into the liver, to retrieve a small bit of tissue. This can then be examined under the microscope by a pathologist to help make the diagnosis. This procedure is done under sterile conditions to prevent infection, and a local anesthetic is injected into the skin to decrease the potential for pain.

If there is concern about only one area of the liver, instead of a disease that would affect the whole organ, an ultrasound may be used to help guide the needle into the proper position.

Can diseases of the liver be prevented?

  • Moderate alcohol consumption to decrease the risk of the most common cause of liver disease in North America.
  • The risk of contracting hepatitis B and hepatitis C can be decreased by minimizing exposure to body fluids.
  • As mentioned previously, vaccinations are available for hepatitis A and B.
  • Maintain a healthy weight and eat a balanced diet to decrease the risk of developing fatty liver disease.

REFERENCE:

Longo DL, Kasper DL, et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 18th edition. McGraw Hill Professional, 2015.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/5/2016

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