Can You Live Without A Liver?
The question “can you live without a liver?”
is not only relevant to those suffering from liver failure, but also to those who have lost their livers due to cancer or other causes. For example, I am currently undergoing chemotherapy treatment for my non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) and I will need a new kidney within the next few months. If I don’t get a new kidney, then I’ll probably die.
I’m sure most of us are familiar with the symptoms of NHL and how they progress over time. However, there are some things that may go unnoticed until it’s too late: fatigue; weight loss; nausea; vomiting; diarrhea; depression or anxiety attacks; difficulty concentrating or remembering things, weakness on one side of the body, muscle twitching (tremors), and so much more.
These are all signs that you’re going through the stages of organ failure.
In fact, these symptoms are often mistaken for something else like diabetes or high blood pressure. While these conditions do exist, they aren’t caused by lack of oxygen to the brain and heart as well as other organs.
They can be prevented and treated!
Now, back to the main question at hand: Can you live without a liver?
Well, the answer is yes. The human body is resilient and can go on when the odds are stacked against it.
What Is The Liver And What Does It Do?
The liver is one of the most important organs in the body and many people don’t know what it does. The liver has multiple functions that range from biochemical to cellular. Let’s start from the beginning…
The liver has two large lobes located in the upper right part of the abdomen, just under the ribs. It weighs about three pounds in men and a little less in women.
In fact, it is one of the few organs that is slightly bigger in women.
The liver’s job is to process toxic substances brought into the body. It also helps to maintain blood sugar levels and store nutrients until they are needed.
In addition, it filters out dead blood cells and produces bile, which helps to break down fat.
The liver is very resilient and can regenerate when part of it is damaged or diseased. It has the unique ability to grow new cells to replace damaged ones.
The problem is, it’s not always able to regenerate and this is when people become at risk for liver failure.
What Happens In Liver Failure?
As the name suggests, liver failure means that the liver no longer functions at 100%. It’s average life span is around eight years and when it reaches this point, death is inevitable. When it starts to fail, those affected will experience a number of symptoms.
Fatigue: Perhaps the most common one is fatigue. In fact, it’s one of the first symptoms people experience and many write it off as “just being tired.” Fatigue increases to a point where even resting or sleeping doesn’t help.
Weight Loss: As a result of fatigue, many people lose their appetite. They lose weight rapidly and become skeletal in appearance.
Sources & references used in this article:
Experiencing liver transplantation: a phenomenological approach by A Forsberg, L Bäckman, A Möller – Journal of advanced nursing, 2000 – Wiley Online Library
Waiting for a liver transplant by J Brown, JH Sorrell, J McClaren… – Qualitative health …, 2006 – journals.sagepub.com
Brother, Can You Spare a Liver-Five Ways to Increase ORgan Donation by P Coleman – Val. UL Rev., 1996 – HeinOnline
The stories of young people living with a liver transplant by RM Taylor, LS Franck, A Dhawan… – Qualitative Health …, 2010 – journals.sagepub.com
… the liver fails: Unless they receive a liver transplant, up to 80% of patients with fulminant hepatic failure die. Learn how to help your patients survive the waiting period by J Krumberger – RN, 2002 – go.gale.com
A liver-on-a-chip platform with bioprinted hepatic spheroids by NS Bhise, V Manoharan, S Massa, A Tamayol… – …, 2016 – iopscience.iop.org
Roller coaster marathon: being a live liver donor by CC Cabello, J Smolowitz – Progress in Transplantation, 2008 – journals.sagepub.com
Use of extended criteria livers decreases wait time for liver transplantation without adversely impacting posttransplant survival by AJ Tector, RS Mangus, P Chestovich, R Vianna… – Annals of …, 2006 – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Variation in the use of resection for colorectal cancer liver metastases by HM Fenton, JC Taylor, JPA Lodge, GJ Toogood… – Annals of …, 2019 – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov