Liver pain: Pain coming from the liver. The liver does not contain nerve fibers that sense pain. Therefore, liver tissue can be cut, burned, or compressed without causing pain. There are pain fibers, however, in the liver's capsule, a thin layer of tissue that surrounds the liver tissue itself. The pain fibers of the capsule are stimulated when the capsule is stretched. Thus anything that stretches the capsule can cause liver pain. The common liver diseases that stretch the capsule are tumors that grow within the liver and inflammation of the liver that occurs, for example, with hepatitis of any cause. In the latter case, an accumulation of inflammatory cells and fluid within the liver is what stretches the capsule. The bile ducts that carry bile from the liver to the gallbladder and intestine as well as the gallbladder, also are surrounded by a thin layer of tissue that senses pain when it is stretched. Thus, stretching of the ducts due to problems within the ducts can lead to pain that may be difficult to distinguish from stretching of the capsule of the liver.
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Last Editorial Review: 1/24/2017