Menu   WellSpan Health

Health Library

Health Library

Anatomy and Function of the Liver

Anatomy of the liver

The liver is located in the upper right-hand portion of the abdominal cavity, beneath the diaphragm and on top of the stomach, right kidney, and intestines. The liver, a dark reddish-brown organ, has multiple functions.

Illustration of  the anatomy of the digestive system, adult

There are two distinct sources that supply blood to the liver:

  • Oxygenated blood flows in from the hepatic artery.

  • Nutrient-rich blood flows in from the hepatic portal vein.

The liver consists of two main lobes, both of which are made up of 8 segments. The segments are made up of a thousand lobules. The lobules are connected to small ducts that connect with larger ducts to ultimately form the common hepatic duct. The common hepatic duct transports bile produced by the liver cells to the gallbladder and duodenum (the first part of the small intestine).

What are the functions of the liver?

The liver regulates most chemical levels in the blood and excretes a product called bile. Bile helps to break down fats, preparing them for further digestion and absorption. All of the blood leaving the stomach and intestines passes through the liver. The liver processes this blood and breaks down, balances, and creates nutrients for the body to use. It also metabolized drugs in the blood into forms that are easier for the body to use.  Many vital functions have been identified with the liver. Some of the more well-known functions include the following:

  • Production of bile, which helps carry away waste and break down fats in the small intestine during digestion

  • Production of certain proteins for blood plasma

  • Production of cholesterol and special proteins to help carry fats through the body

  • Store and release glucose as needed

  • Processing of hemoglobin for use of its iron content (the liver stores iron)

  • Conversion of harmful ammonia to urea (urea is one of the end products of protein metabolism that is excreted in the urine)

  • Clearing the blood of drugs and other harmful substances

  • Regulating blood clotting

  • Resisting infections by producing immune factors and removing bacteria from the bloodstream

  • Clearance of bilirubin (if there is a buildup of bilirubin, the skin and eyes turn yellow)

When the liver has broken down harmful substances, they are excreted into the bile or blood. Bile by-products enter the intestine and ultimately leave the body in the feces. Blood by-products are filtered out by the kidneys and leave the body in the form of urine.

Anatomy and Function of the Liver - WellSpan Health

Online Medical Reviewer: Dozier, Tennille, RN, BSN, RDMS
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 2014-04-24T00:00:00
Last Modified Date: 2014-05-07T00:00:00
Posting Date: 2008-11-30T00:00:00
Published Date: 2014-05-21T00:00:00
Last Review Date: 2007-06-30T00:00:00
© 2015 WellSpan Health. All Rights Reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

I would like to:

Are you sure you would like to cancel?

All information will be lost.

Yes No ×

About the provider search

This search will provide you with WellSpan Medical Group and Northern Lancaster County (Ephrata) Medical Group primary care physicians and specialists. If we don’t have a WellSpan Medical Group physician to meet your criteria, the search will expand to include community physicians who partner with WellSpan Medical Group physicians through the WellSpan Provider Network or provide care to patients on the Medical Staffs of WellSpan’s Hospitals.

×

Schedule Your Next Appointment Online with MyWellSpan

Use your MyWellSpan patient portal any time to view available appointments, and pick the date and time that best suits your schedule.

Go to MyWellSpan

New to this practice?

If you don't have a WellSpan primary care provider and would like to schedule a new patient appointment with a provider who is accepting patients, just log into your MyWellSpan account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to see the offices that are accepting new patients in relation to your zip code. If you are not enrolled in MyWellSpan, go to www.mywellspan.org, call 1-866-638-1842 or speak with a member of the staff at a participating facility to sign up. New patient scheduling not available at all practices/programs.

Already a patient at this practice?

If you already have a relationship with a WellSpan practice, simply log into your account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to schedule an appointment with any provider or practice that already counts you as a patient. Online scheduling varies by practice/program.

×