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The liver is the largest organ in the body. It’s surrounded by a fibrous capsule and is divided into sections called lobes.
It’s in the upper part of the abdomen and runs across the whole of the upper abdomen, although it’s larger on the right hand side. It’s surrounded and protected from injury by the lower ribs.
The liver and surrounding organs
View a large version of the liver and surrounding organs|
The liver is an extremely important organ that has many functions. These include regulating sugars and fats in the body so they can be used for energy. It also produces proteins that circulate in the blood. Some of the proteins help the blood to clot and prevent excessive bleeding, while others are essential for maintaining the balance of fluid in the body.
The liver also destroys harmful substances, such as alcohol, and gets rid of waste products. It does this by breaking down substances not used by the body so they can be passed out in urine or stools (bowel motions).
It stores glucose and vitamins so they can be used by the body when needed. It also produces bile, which breaks down the fats in food so that they can be absorbed by the bowel (intestine).
It is connected to the small bowel (duodenum) by a tube called the bile duct. This duct takes the bile produced by the liver to the intestine.
The liver is very good at repairing itself. It can function normally with only a small portion of it in working order.
Content last reviewed: 1 January 2013
Next planned review: 2015
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