Liver Disease - Medical Negligence Lawyers
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Liver Disease - Medical Malpractice
The liver is a large organ that sits in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen. It carries an important role when it comes to the production of important proteins and blood clotting factors. It is also important in the metabolism of glucose, cholesterol and iron. It is affected by many illnesses. Severe liver disease is called cirrhosis, which is a liver filled with scar tissue. When you get liver disease, your skin turns jaundiced and you suffer from nausea, vomiting, weight loss, weakness and tiredness. The treatment of liver disease is dependent on its cause.
The liver is a resilient organ in that it takes a loss of more than three-quarters of the liver before you begin to see a loss in function. It is the largest solid bodily organ. Besides being an organ, the liver is a gland which secretes bile for digestion. It has two main lobes and each is consisted of many tiny lobules. The liver receives its blood supply from two separate sources. The first is the hepatic artery that supplies the liver with oxygen. The second is the portal vein, which brings nutrients to the liver from the spleen and the intestine.
Interestingly, the liver happens to be the only bodily organ that can regenerate itself if parts are lost or damaged. You need a certain amount of healthy cells left, though, to have enough at the end of the regeneration.
The liver’s job is to do some of the following:
- Produce bile that is necessary to digest fats in the diet.
- To store extra glucose in the form of glycogen within the liver cells.
- To produce clotting factors for the blood.
- To make amino acids which are the building blocks of the production of proteins.
- To process and store iron for use in making red blood cells.
- To make cholesterol and related chemicals responsible for the transport of fat.
- To convert waste products to molecules that can be gotten rid of in the urine.
- To metabolize medications from their dormant ingredients to their active ingredients.
What are the causes of liver disease? The liver is a resilient organ but it can be damaged in many ways. Some of these ways include the following:
- You can get hepatitis, which is inflammation of the cells.
- There can be blockage of bile flow such as is seen in cholestasis.
- Fats in the body like triglycerides or cholesterol can build up in conditions like steatosis.
- Blood flow to the liver can be lost.
- The liver can be damaged by toxins or toxic medications.
The main cause of liver disease in the Western World is alcohol abuse. Alcohol is toxic to the liver cells and can inflame the liver. This is usually referred to as alcoholic hepatitis. It causes fat to accumulate in the cells and is directly responsible for many cases of cirrhosis.
There can be drug-induced cirrhosis and liver disease when drugs inflame liver cells. Taking too much Tylenol, for example, can inflame and permanently damage the liver. This is especially true for those who already had liver disease or alcoholism. Statin medications taken for the control of cholesterol elevations can adversely affect the liver enzymes and cause liver function damage. Niacin is used for a number of reasons and can cause liver inflammation, even when taken at the normal dose. Other drugs that cause liver damage include macrodantin, an antibiotic; Augmentin, an antibiotic; Methotrexate, taken for cancer and inflammatory disorders; and Antabuse, taken for alcohol abuse.
Infections that cause hepatitis can do permanent damage to the liver. These include hepatitis A, which is spread by food and by poor hand washing, hepatitis B and hepatitis C, both chronic hepatitis agents that are spread by blood and sexual activity, and hepatitis D that needs a concomitant infection with hepatitis B in order for it to become infective.
Fatty liver disease is not caused by alcohol but can do damage to cells of the liver. Hemochromatosis means iron overload and this can damage liver tissues along with pancreatic involvement. This is considered a hereditary condition. Wilson's disease is also inherited and is related to copper metabolism. Gilbert’s disease is actually fairly common and actually doesn't damage the liver to any degree. Hepatocellular cancer and cholangiocarcinoma can replace good cells with cancerous liver cells. Blood can clot in the hepatic vein, keeping blood from leaving the liver. This is seen in Budd Chiari syndrome. The excess pressure can kill of liver cells. Congestive heart failure can also back up fluid into the liver and do damage to liver cells.
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The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here