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What is a Liver Injury?

By Nick Doniger
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Liver injury is one of the most common types of trauma to the abdominal area. Because the liver has several different functions in the digestive process, such injury may result in death, hemorrhaging, or damage to other organs. Trauma to the ribs often results in liver damage, and children are particularly susceptible to such situations due to less mature body development.

While there are many signs and symptoms of liver damage, such as nausea, detection is more likely to result in a hospital visit upon the receipt of blunt trauma, such as a vehicle accident or an act of violence. Surgical treatment has often been found obsolete for those who suffer from injury to the liver.

The liver is located above the gallbladder and is protected by the ribcage. It functions as a filter for blood in the digestive tract, and it detoxifies the body after the consumption of drugs, alcohol, and all other toxins or chemicals. Working with the pancreas, gallbladder, and intestines, the liver also aids in the processing of foods and liquids. Due to its necessity in many different bodily functions, damage to the liver may be potentially hazardous to health, if not fatal.

The majority of deaths from abdominal trauma are associated with liver injury. As the largest solid organ in the abdomen, the liver is one of the most commonly injured of such organs. It is also the most common organ injured by penetrative force, such as violent trauma from bullets or knives. Motor vehicle accidents account for a large percentage of injury to the liver as well.

Due to its proximity to the rib cage, the right lobe of the liver is more commonly injured than the left. As children's ribs are more pliable than those of adults, kids are at a particularly high risk of damage to the liver in conjunction with the bending or shifting of ribs. The liver of a child is also not fully developed, which makes trauma potentially more severe.

Some of the initial signs and symptoms of liver injury include nausea, vomiting, and sharp pain in the abdomen. The physical damages to the liver itself include bile duct injury, contusion, or laceration. Severe hemorrhage is among the most serious risks of liver damage, as it may lead to sepsis, other types of organ failure, or even death. In most cases, liver injuries are the result of blunt trauma, making them less likely to go undetected.

Conservative treatment of liver injury is often conducted by carefully monitoring the site of trauma. This may be performed through imaging techniques such as computed tomography (CT) scanning. Surgery was once common in treating liver injury, but since the later part of the 20th century, less invasive techniques have proven effective. Surgical analysis has concluded that most of the time, bleeding of the liver halts prior to surgery in surviving patients. Additionally, studies have found that other abdominal complications have been more common in those who have received operative treatment than those who have received conservative treatment.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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