Merck Manual

Please confirm that you are not located inside the Russian Federation

honeypot link

Liver Injury

By

Philbert Yuan Van

, MD, Oregon Health and Science University

Last full review/revision Jun 2021| Content last modified Jun 2021
Click here for the Professional Version

Liver injuries are characterized in several key ways:

  • People have tenderness and pain in the abdomen that sometimes radiates to the shoulder.

  • Doctors use computed tomography (CT) or ultrasonography to detect liver injuries.

  • Liver injuries often heal without treatment, but sometimes surgery is needed to repair the injury or to remove part of the liver.

Causes of Liver Injury

The liver can be damaged as a result of impact (for example, a motor vehicle crash) or penetrating trauma (such as a knife or gunshot wound). Injuries may range from relatively small collections of blood (hematomas) within the liver to large tears that go deep into the liver. Because the liver has many large blood vessels, the main problem resulting from liver injury is severe bleeding. Nearly all bleeding from a liver injury occurs within the abdominal cavity.

Symptoms of Liver Injury

People with liver injury and severe bleeding have symptoms of shock Shock Shock is a life-threatening condition in which blood flow to the organs is low, decreasing delivery of oxygen and thus causing organ damage and sometimes death. Blood pressure is usually low... read more , including a rapid heart rate, rapid breathing, and cold, clammy, pale or bluish skin. People also have abdominal pain and tenderness because blood in the abdomen irritates the abdominal tissue. When bleeding is severe, the abdomen may also be swollen.

Diagnosis of Liver Injury

  • Liver imaging tests

  • Sometimes surgery

Doctors use computed tomography (CT) or ultrasonography to detect liver injuries. Sometimes surgery is needed to determine the extent of the injury and to stop the bleeding.

Treatment of Liver Injury

  • Sometimes surgery or other procedures to control bleeding

Sometimes liver injuries heal without treatment. However, people must be hospitalized and watched closely to ensure that bleeding does not worsen. Sometimes doctors give blood transfusions Blood Transfusion read more . If the bleeding worsens or does not stop fairly quickly, doctors often first try to seal off the bleeding vessels without surgery. To seal the vessels, doctors pass a thin plastic catheter into the blood vessels in the groin and then up to the liver. Then they inject substances to seal the vessels. If this procedure does not stop the bleeding, surgery is usually done. Also, if bleeding was very severe from the beginning, surgery is usually done as soon as possible because in such cases sealing off blood vessels without surgery is rarely effective.

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
Click here for the Professional Version

OTHER TOPICS IN THIS CHAPTER

Others also read

Test your knowledge

Spider Bites
Bites from which of the following spiders do not cause serious harm to people?
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID

Also of Interest

Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
TOP