The Liver: Functions / Location




What is the liver? Where is it?

The liver is an abdominal organ located in the right upper part of the abdomen. On the top side it neighbors the right lung and the diaphragm and on the bottom side it neighbors the right kidney and the intestines.



Important and large vessels flow into the liver or rather go under it. All blood flowing back out of both the small and large intestines pass the liver. This enables all substances which have been absorbed by the intestines to enter the liver so they can be dealt with.


What functions does the liver have?

The liver is the chemistry laboratory and refinery of the human body. In the medical world, the smallest liver unit is called a hepatocyte (liver cell). The liver consists of a huge amount of hepatocytes working together for our body. Each hepatocyte is a functioning unit in itself.



It is able to absorb poisonous substances. These are either converted into substances which are useful for the body or they are expelled from the body as waste. This waste is then emptied into the intestine with bile and disposed of in the stool. Additionally, the hepatocytes can convert important raw substances into substances which are useful for the body. 


Diseases of the Liver


What diseases of the liver are there?

The liver, being a very important organ, can be damaged by a number of things. The most important causes of liver disease are listed here:

  • Infection with hepatitis viruses (hepatitis B, C, and D)
  • Chronic liver disease including cholestasis such as primary bilateral cirrhosis or primary sclerosing cholangitis
  • Acquired metabolic disorders (alpha 1-antitrypsin deficiency, Wilson's disease, haemochromatosis, mucoviscidosis, polycystic liver disease)
  • liver tumors
  • Chronic consumption of alcohol
  • Poisoning (mushroom poisoning)



The above-mentioned diseases result in the destruction of individual liver units - the hepatocytes. The number of active cells diminishes and the liver becomes scarred. In medical terms this is called cirrhosis of the liver. As important substances are no longer produced and toxins cannot be adequately disposed of, cirrhosis of the liver results in the body becoming weak. This is an irreversible disease which manifests itself in a variety of symptoms.



The following are the most important clinical manifestations of cirrhosis of the liver:

  • Chronic fatigue and exhaustion
  • Certain skin changes
  • Water accumulation in the abdominal cavity (ascites)
  • Varicose veins in the esophagus.
  • Impaired brain functions (hepatic encephalopathy)


My liver is ill and I need a liver transplant.
What kind of testing and examinations await me?

To be recognized as a candidate for liver transplantation by Eurotransplant, the patient's entire health situation must be examined and evaluated.

For this many examinations are necessary. These can be done in various departments of our University Clinic or by a local specialist. The patient will be cared for and accompanied by our experienced team throughout the examinations and planning thereof.

Your health insurance will cover the costs of these examinations.

The following list should give you an overview of the mandatory examinations:

  • Blood testing
  • ECG, lung function tests, chest x-ray
  • Stomach and intestinal endoscopy
  • X-ray examinations of the liver vessels
  • Abdominal (abdominal organs) and heart sonograms
  • Computer tomography of the abdomen


  • Ear, nose, and throat examination
  • Dental examination

Depending upon the type of disease and the test results additional tests and examinations could be required in order to deepen the diagnostics.