What Does the Liver Do?

The second largest organ in the human body, the liver filters or detoxifies almost 1,500 liters of blood each day, removing fats, metabolic byproducts, chemicals, environmental toxins, drugs and alcohol from the blood. It also stores energy (in the form of glycogen) and fat, decomposes red blood cells, and makes proteins that become part of blood plasma. Additionally, it produces and secretes bile that is stored in the gallbladder and then released into the small intestine when a person eats. Bile plays an important role in digestion of fats and the absorption of nutrients and vitamins such as A and D.

Located in the upper right side of the abdomen, the liver is considered part of the hepatobiliary system, which also includes the gallbladder and bile ducts. The hepatobiliary system works functionally with the digestive system, which includes the pancreas, stomach , intestines, colon and spleen.

The liver is made up of eight segments. A person can often survive on 30 percent remaining liver, provided it is healthy.7 If the liver is cirrhotic, a person can often live with 50 percent remaining liver; this may depend, however, on which parts of the liver are affected by disease.8

Unlike most body tissues, the liver can regenerate lost tissue, but this capability depends on the overall health of the organ. This is an important fact for people who plan to have a liver resection. Liver tissue can regenerate to help replenish the working structure of the organ that performs blood filtration, but it will not become the fully functioning liver it was originally.