Can you imagine living without a liver? The liver is an essential organ to the human body, and we cannot function without it. The liver is responsible for processing and filtering our blood, producing bile to aid in digestion, and storing essential vitamins and minerals. In this article, we will explore the function of the liver, what happens if it fails, and if it’s possible to live without it.
What is the Liver?
The liver is the largest gland in the human body, located in the upper right part of the abdomen. It performs more than 500 functions to keep your body working efficiently. The liver processes everything you eat, drink, and inhale, including medicines and toxins. The liver filters the blood coming from the digestive tract before passing it to the rest of the body. The liver also makes proteins that are essential for blood clotting and other functions.
Structure of the Liver
The liver has two large lobes that are divided into smaller lobes called lobules. Within the liver are tiny bile ducts that carry bile produced by liver cells to larger bile ducts that ultimately leave the liver.
Function of the Liver
The liver has many critical functions that include:
- Removing toxins from the bloodstream.
- Processing nutrients from food into forms that can be used by the body.
- Storing essential vitamins and minerals.
- Producing bile, which helps in the digestion of fats.
- Regulating blood clotting.
What Happens if the Liver Fails?
The liver is one of the most vital organs of the body, and losing its function can be catastrophic. Liver failure is a life-threatening condition that can cause complications such as:
Jaundice is a yellowing of the skin and eyes due to the build-up of bilirubin, a waste product that the liver cannot process. Bilirubin is usually removed from the body through the bile ducts, but if the liver is not functioning correctly, this process does not work correctly.
2. Coagulation Disorders
The liver produces essential proteins that help the blood clot when you experience an injury. Liver failure can prevent these proteins from being produced, increasing the risk of bleeding and bruising.
Ascites is a condition marked by the accumulation of fluid in the abdomen. Liver failure can cause a change in the osmotic pressure of blood, leading to fluid accumulation in the peritoneal cavity.
Liver failure can cause a buildup of toxins in the bloodstream leading to confusion, drowsiness, and can eventually result in a coma.
5. Gastrointestinal Bleeding
The liver produces a protein that helps blood clotting. Without this protein, patients are at risk of suffering from GI bleeding. Bile flow obstruction can also cause this problem.
Can You Live Without a Liver?
Unfortunately, the human body cannot function without the liver. The functions of the liver are so vital that the human body cannot survive if it is absent. A person can still survive if some liver is still present, and in some cases, a portion of the liver can be surgically removed.
If a person has liver failure, a liver transplant may be necessary. This surgery involves replacing the failed liver with a healthy one from a suitable donor. After a transplant, a person will need to take medication for life to ensure their body does not reject the transplanted liver.
Liver Support Systems
Medical professionals can provide liver support before the liver failure becomes too extreme. Support systems like artificial liver support devices or liver dialysis are available.
The liver is an essential organ, and we cannot function without it. The consequences of losing liver function are severe and life-threatening. While it is not possible to live without a liver, a person can survive if some liver function remains, and liver transplants or liver support machines are available in severe cases.
Can a person survive without a liver?
No, it is not possible for a person to survive without a liver. The functions of the liver are critical for the proper functioning of the body.
What happens if the liver fails?
The consequences of liver failure are severe and can be life-threatening. Symptoms include jaundice, gastrointestinal bleeding, and coma.
What is a liver transplant?
A liver transplant is a surgical procedure that involves replacing a failed liver with a healthy one from a suitable donor.
What are liver support systems?
Liver support systems are medical devices to help support the liver before the liver failure becomes too extreme. Support systems like artificial liver support devices or liver dialysis are available.
Can the liver regenerate?
Yes, the liver can regenerate itself. The liver can regenerate up to 75% of lost tissue. A healthy liver can regenerate itself in a few weeks if part of it is removed.