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The liver

The liver is the largest organ inside the body. It is found above the stomach on the right side of the abdomen (belly) under the ribs. The gall bladder sits under the liver, and the pancreas sits under the stomach. These organs are all part of the digestive system. They work together to help the body break down food and turn it into energy.

The liver has two main sections: the right and left lobes. Blood flows into the liver from the hepatic artery and the portal vein. Blood in the hepatic artery comes from the heart and carries oxygen. Blood in the portal vein comes from the digestive organs and carries nutrients and substances such as medicines to the liver.

The liver does many important jobs. These include:

  • breaking down drugs and alcohol, and getting rid of toxins
  • producing bile to help dissolve fat so it can be easily digested
  • storing and releasing sugars (glucose) as needed
  • storing nutrients
  • making proteins to help blood clot and to balance fluid in the body.

Unlike other internal organs, a healthy liver may be able to repair itself if it is injured. It can continue to function when only a small part is working and may grow back to its normal size in 6–8 weeks, even after a part is removed during surgery.

A substance called bile is made in the liver and stored in the gall bladder. Bile is carried between the liver and gall bladder by a series of tubes called bile ducts. The common bile duct carries bile from the liver and gall bladder to the bowel, where it helps to break down fats from food.