Cirrhosis and Related Liver Disorders

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Cirrhosis and Related Liver Disorders

The liver is the largest gland and second largest organ in the human body. It is also the only internal organ capable of regeneration following injury. Located in the abdominal cavity, this reddish brown organ is divided into lobes of different size and shape. The liver plays a critical role in metabolism, digestion, elimination, and detoxification, among other processes. This organ performs a surprisingly large number of functions that influence virtually all other body systems. This is why diseases of the liver can be so devastating. One class of chronic diseases affecting the liver is cirrhosis. (Kasper, 2008) Cirrhosis is a condition in which normal liver cells are damaged and replaced by
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These cells are also responsible for the regenerative capabilities of the liver. Specialized macrophages, called Kupffer cells, also inhabit the liver. These cells are capable of filtering bacteria and toxins from the blood. Kupffer cell activation is also responsible for early alcohol induced liver injury. In a cirrhotic liver these cells are replaced by scar tissue. Some of the damaged cells in the liver continue to divide and form nodules. This restricts blood supply and greatly reduces liver function. (Kasper, 2008) The liver is essential to digestion and subsequent metabolic processes. It is a plays a large part in the processing of carbohydrates and lipids. As carbohydrates are absorbed in the small intestine, they are first brought to the liver via the portal vein. Depending on the needs of the body, the liver will either store excess glucose as glycogen or breakdown glycogen to release glucose into the bloodstream. Lipids are not soluble in water and cannot be efficiently absorbed without bile produced by the liver. Bile emulsifies fats and allows lipase, an essential protease produced by the pancreas, to effectively break down complex lipids for absorption. The liver also detoxifies the body by trapping toxins that have entered through digestion, the skin, or the respiratory system. The first way that the liver detoxifies the body is through filtering the blood. It removes viruses, bacteria, and
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