The liver, anatomy and physiology of the liver

The liver is the largest internal organ. The liver is located under the right lung. The liver can be divided into several parts. The liver is an important organ with multiple functions. One of these functions is to synthesize proteins. Another important function of the liver is the production of bile.

Anatomy of the liver

The liver (Figure 1) is for the most part under the right diaphragmatic dome. The liver is located directly below the right-hand aperture (see Figure 1). Above the right-hand aperture is located to the right lung. The liver has a reddish brown color. The liver is divided into 8 different lobes. Because the liver bile, there is a network of bile ducts between the liver cells. This network meets in the bile ducts. These ducts can be divided into a part which lies within the liver (intrahepatic) and a part which is outside the liver (extrahepatic).
The biliary ducts

The intrahepatic bile ducts (Figure 2) which are consist of the intralobular bile duct (ductus biliferi interlobulares), and the right and left hepatic ducts. The bile ducts arise from the network of ducts between the liver cells. The ducts pass into intralobular bile ducts through larger bile ducts back into the right and left hepatic ducts. The bile ducts which are located outside the liver, consisting of the hepatic communis duct, the cystic duct and the common bile duct (see Figure 2). The common bile duct enters along with the pancreatic duct (originating from the pancreas) in the duodenum.


The functions of the liver

The liver has several functions. One of the important functions of the liver is to make proteins. The liver synthesizes almost all proteins that circulate in the body. A major protein which is synthesized by the liver is albumin. Albumin major function is to maintain intravascular oncotic pressure. Another important function of albumin is to transport substances that are not water soluble. The liver also produces almost all coagulation factors. Another important function of the liver is to maintain blood glucose. When liver glycogen is broken down to glucose, the glucose enters the blood. The blood glucose level will rise. The liver is also capable of producing glucose through gluconeogenesis. The liver is also responsible for the production of cholesterol. The liver also produces bile. Bile has a significant role in the digestion of fats. Other important functions of the liver are the breakdown of hormones and the metabolism of drugs and alcohol. In addition to the many already-mentioned functions of the liver, the liver has also an immunological function.

Disorders of the Liver

There are various diseases of the liver. Below is an overview of some diseases of the liver:

  • Jaundice
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C
  • Hepatitis D
  • Hepatitis E
  • Liver Cirrhosis
  • Liver disease due to alcohol
  • Abscess of liver
  • Tumors of the liver, liver cancer


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H. Fritsch, W. Kuhnel, 2007, Atlas van de anatomie, Inwendige organen, Sesam, Baarn

P. Kumar, M. Clark, 2002, Clinical Medicine, Saunders

K.L. Moore, A. F. Dalley, 1999, Clinically oriented Anatomy, Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins