The liver is an important organ located in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen. It is responsible for:
- Filtering the blood.
- Making bile, a substance that helps digest fat and excrete certain fatty substances
- Processing and hooking fats to carriers (including cholesterol), and storing sugars, helping the body transport and save energy.
- Making important proteins, such as most of those involved in blood clotting.
- Metabolizing many medications, such as barbiturates, sedatives, and amphetamines.
- Storing iron, copper, vitamins A and D, and several of the B vitamins.
- Making important proteins like albumin that regulate fluid transport in the blood and kidneys.
- Helping break down and recycle red blood cells.
Signs and symptoms of enlarged liver:
- Tenderness. If the liver enlarges quickly, it may be tender to the touch.
- Pain. A markedly enlarged liver may cause abdominal pain or fullness.
- Jaundice. If the cause of enlargement affects liver function, it may lead to yellowing of the skin (jaundice).
Common causes of liver enlargement in children are:
- Viral hepatitis like hepatitis A.
- Galactosemia, an inherited disease in which the body cannot tolerate certain sugars in milk. These sugars can build up, causing serious damage to the liver and other organs of the body.
- Alagille's syndrome, a condition in which the bile ducts narrow and deteriorate, especially during the first year of life
- Alpha 1- antitrypsin deficiency, a genetic liver disease in children that can lead to hepatitis and cirrhosis of the liver
- Neonatal hepatitis, which is hepatitis that occurs in a newborn during the first few months of life
- Tyrosinemia, a disorder that causes serious problems with liver metabolism
- hemorrhagic telangiectasia, a condition in which thin blood vessels allow frequent and easy bleeding of the skin and digestive tract
- Reye's syndrome, a condition that causes a buildup of fat in the liver. This condition has been linked in some cases to use of aspirin, especially in conjunction with chickenpox, influenza, or other illnesses with fever.
- Wilson's disease, an inherited condition that causes a buildup of the mineral copper in the liver
- Thalassemia, a group of hereditary anemia’s, or low red blood cell counts
- Biliary atresia, a condition in which the bile ducts extending from the liver to the intestine are too small in diameter or are missing
- Chronic active hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver that causes severe scarring and interference with liver function
- Cancer of the liver, which may result from cancer in other parts of the body that have spread to the liver.
- High doses of vitamins like A and D.
- Certain medications like prolonged use of acetaminophen, certain antibiotics, steroids can lead to enlargement of liver.
- X-ray examination.
- Ultrasound scan.
- CT scan of the abdomen.
- Liver function tests.
- Liver biopsy.
Treatment involves treating the cause for enlargement of liver.