The liver is the largest gland in the body and has a wide variety of functions. Three of its basic functions are:
- Production and secretion of bile, which is passed into the intestinal tract;
- Involvement in many metabolic activities related to carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism; and
- Filtration of the blood, removing bacteria and other foreign particles that have gained entrance to the blood from the lumen of the intestine.
The liver synthesizes heparin, an anticoagulant substance, and has an important detoxicating function. It produces bile pigments from the hemoglobin of worn-out red blood corpuscles and secretes bile salts; these together are conveyed to the duodenum by the biliary ducts.
The liver is soft and pliable and occupies the upper part of the abdominal cavity just beneath the diaphragm. The greater part of the liver is situated under cover of the right costal margin, and the right hemidiaphragm separates it from the pleura, lungs, pericardium, and heart. The liver extends to the left to reach the left hemidiaphragm.