How the Liver Works

The liver is the largest organ in the body. In adults it is the size of a football and weighs about three pounds.

The liver is located in the upper right side of your child's abdominal area, under the ribs. It helps fight infections and cleans the blood.

It also helps digest food and stores energy for when you need it.

The liver is an organ capable of natural regeneration - as little as 25% of a liver can remain and still grow into a whole liver again.

The liver has a right lobe and a left lobe. Nearly all of the blood that leaves the stomach and intestines must pass through the liver. Blood enters the liver through the hepatic artery and the portal vein.

The blood from the hepatic artery carries oxygen and helps support liver growth.

The portal vein carries blood and nutrients from the intestine and delivers them to the liver cells (hepatocytes) which perform specific liver functions. Blood leaves the liver through the hepatic veins.

The liver acts as the body's largest chemical factory and produces varied substances in the body, including:

  • Glucose, a basic sugar and energy source
  • Proteins, the building blocks for growth
  • Blood-clotting factors that aid in healing wounds
  • Bile, a fluid stored in the gallbladder that is necessary for the absorption of fats and vitamins

The liver also acts as a filter, removing impurities and toxins from the blood. It metabolizes and detoxifies substances ingested by the body.

These important functions are disrupted when the liver doesn't function well. Other organs, such as the kidney and the brain, can be affected when the liver is not working well.

Learn more about the liver.