The liver performs important functions, supporting life. While you cannot live without a liver completely, you can live with only one part. Most people can work well with just under half of their liver. Your liver can grow and return to full size within a few months.
What are the roles of Liver?
Your liver is strong, performing more than 500 life-support functions. This 3-pound [3 kg] organ - the largest internal organ in the body - is located in the upper right part of your abdomen. It does the following:
filters toxins from your blood
produces digestive enzymes called bile
stores vitamins and minerals
it regulates hormones and the body’s response
it helps to collect blood
Your liver is the only organ in your body that can regenerate after its parts have been removed or damaged. In fact, your liver may grow back to its full size in just a few months.
So, if the liver is regenerated, can you live without it for some time?
Can you live without one part of liver?
No. The liver is so important in existence that even if you can only live with half the liver, you cannot live without the liver at all. Without liver:
your blood will not clot properly, causing uncontrolled bleeding
toxins and chemicals and digestive processes will build up in the blood
you will have less protection against bacterial and fungal infections
you can have inflammation, including fatal inflammation of the brain
Without liver, death would be possible within a few days.
Reasons of Liver Failure
A liver can fail for a number of reasons.
1. Acute Liver Failure
Acute liver failure, also known as fulminant hepatic failure, leads to instant liver deterioration, often when the liver was previously completely healthy. According to research, it’s very rare, happening yearly in fewer than 10 people per million.
Causes of Acute Liver Failure
Following are the causes of acute liver failure:
- viral infections
- drug toxicity, often due to overdoses of acetaminophen (Tylenol)
Symptoms of Acute Liver Failure
Here are the symptoms of acute liver failure:
- jaundice, which causes yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes
- abdominal pain and swelling
- mental disorientation
2. Chronic Liver Failure
The other kind of liver failure is known as chronic liver failure. It’s mainly caused by inflammation and scarring that occurs over a period of months or years.
Causes of Chronic Liver Failure
This overall liver destruction is often due to following:
- alcohol misuse
- infections, including hepatitis A, B and C
- liver cancer
- genetic diseases, such as Wilson’s disease
- nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
Symptoms of Chronic Liver Failure
Here are some symptoms of chronic liver failure:
- swollen abdomen
- vomiting blood
- easy bruising
- muscle loss
Is liver a death sentence?
Liver failure is not a death sentence. Depending on your health and the health of your liver, you may be eligible for liver transplantation, surgical removal of a diseased liver with a piece or all of a healthy donor donation.
Types of Liver Donor Transplant
There are two types of liver donor transplants:
1. Deceased Donor Transplant
This means that the liver is taken from a person who has just passed away.
The person would have signed the donor’s physical card before his or her death. The framework can also be donated by postmortem with family permission. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases reports that most of the donated livers come from deceased donors.
2. Live Donor Transplant
In this process, the surviving person, usually a family member or close friend, agrees to donate a part of their healthy liver. One study, Trusted Source, found that of the 6,455 liver transplants performed in 2013, only 4 percent came from live donors.
Your doctor may recommend an orthotopic or heterotopic implant.
In an orthotopic transplant, the diseased liver is completely removed and the liver of a healthy donor or part of the liver replaced.
In a heterotopic transplant, a damaged liver is left in place and a healthy liver or part of the liver is inserted. Although bone marrow transplants are the most common, only one heterotopic can be suggested if:
your health is so weak you may not be able to withstand complete surgery to remove the liver
your liver disease has a genetic predisposition
The doctor may choose a heterotopic implant if your liver failure is caused by a genetic condition that future genetic research may find a cure or effective treatment. With the courage of your liver, you can take advantage of this new development.
Is it possible to live with liver’s part of one?
Even though you can only receive a partial liver, your doctors will make sure it is big enough to do all the necessary operations. In fact, one orthopedic surgeon at the University of Pittsburgh estimates that you need only 25 to 30 percent of your liver to maintain normal function.
In time, the liver will grow to its normal size. Experts are not sure how the liver regeneration occurs, but they do know that when the liver is reduced in size by surgery, a cellular response is activated that produces rapid recovery.
Partial liver removal in living donor transplantation
People who receive liver transplants usually have a full organ transplant. The liver may be divided, however, if it is too large or separated between the child and the adult.
Those with a live liver donation, usually from a healthy relative or friend based on size and blood type, receive only a piece of liver. Some people choose this option because they do not want to risk getting sick as they wait for a list of organ that may or may not arrive on time.
According to the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health:
About 40 to 60 percent of the donor’s liver is removed and placed in the recipient.
Both the receiver and the donor will have enough of a liver to ensure proper operation.
Liver development begins almost immediately.
Within two weeks, the liver is near to normal size.
Complete growth or near total regrowth is achieved within a year.
In the United States, 14,000 people are currently on the waiting list for transplanted liver transplants. Of those, 1,400 will die before they can get one.
Although uncommon, the living contribution of the liver is very evident. In 2017, another 367 liver donations were donated by live donors.
The great advantage of a living liver donation is that the surgery can be scheduled when it is convenient for both parties. In addition, the liver may be donated before the recipient becomes seriously ill. This can increase survival rates.
To be considered for living liver donation you must:
be between 18 and 60 years old
have a blood type corresponding to the recipient
examined thoroughly physically and mentally
have a healthy weight, because being overweight is a risk factor for fatty liver disease, which damages the liver
be determined not to drink alcohol until you have recovered
have a normal life
Can the patient survive a long life without liver transplant?
Liver transplantation is only recommended for those patients with a predictable survival of less than 10%. There is therefore no question that a patient lives longer without a liver transplant if he or she really needs it depending on the state of his or her liver function. Normal survival usually lasts for a few months without a liver transplant.
It is the basis for pseudoscientific oversimplification to measure liver damage using percentages unless the damage is the result of a tumor whose volume can be calculated using a CT scan. In many cases the liver is damaged by a chronic liver disease that affects the entire liver to varying degrees but the difference is not so noticeable or as measurable as a percentage.
Most nurses use pediatric points or meld points calculated based on the deterioration of liver function to differentiate the level of liver damage. It is an axiomatic to believe that liver regeneration can compensate for the deterioration of function as long as at least 30% of cells remain undiagnosed and that strong sequelae of liver damage occur only when this reserve is at risk.
Liver transplant is a useful procedure in case of critical liver pathologies like cirrhosis, hepatitis B, C, D, congenital fibrosis of the liver and other disorders. This procedure is recommended only as a last resort if nothing else can help.
Frequently Asked Questions
Following are the frequently asked questions related to this topic:
1. What organs can you live without?
Here are some of the “non-vital organs”.
- Spleen: This organ sits on the left side of the abdomen, towards the back under the ribs.
- Reproductive organs.
2. What happens when your liver fails?
Liver failure means that your liver loses all of its function. A life-threatening condition that requires urgent medical attention. The first symptoms of liver failure are often nausea, loss of appetite, fatigue and diarrhea.
3. Do livers grow back?
The liver is the only solid internal organ that is capable of full regeneration. This means the remaining portion of your liver will regenerate after surgery.
4. How long does liver failure take to kill?
If up to 50 to 60 percent of the liver cells may be died within three to four days in a severe case like a Tylenol overdose, the liver will repair completely after 30 days if no complications arise.
5. Does donating a liver shorten your life?
Whether you donate a part of your liver or get a new one, life usually returns to normal within a few months after surgery. By the time you hit the 3 month mark, your liver will reach its normal size and you will return to your normal routine.
Once the liver has been removed, the two blood vessels that carry the liver will need to be returned to the circulatory system. While it is assumed that the portal vein can be anastomosed directly in the hepatic artery or inferior vena cava, it is hard to believe that there will be a vessel capable of flowing from the hepatic artery. Therefore, the pipes alone pose a major problem.
Next, we have the problem of living without a liver. This would not be possible, since the liver is involved in various processes such as glucose metabolism, protein synthesis, bile distribution, and the excretion of various waste products. There will be a lot of ammonia from the vaccinated proteins, eventually leading to seizures, loss of saturated protein, eventually leading to life-threatening bleeding, and finally vascular collapse due to lack of albumin.