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Enlarged Liver (Hepatomegaly)

An enlarged liver occurs when the liver swells beyond its normal size. A medical term for an enlarged liver is hepatomegaly. An enlarged liver is typically a sign of an underlying problem. There are many possible causes of an enlarged liver, including hepatitis.

Depending on the cause, liver enlargement can sometimes lead to liver failure. This occurs when a large part of the liver becomes damaged and is deteriorating.

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Located on the right side of the abdomen, the liver is a vital organ. For example, it helps with ridding the body of toxins and producing substances that aid in body processes such as clotting. If you have an enlarged liver, it is important to find the source of the problem and receive appropriate treatment.

Signs and Symptoms of an Enlarged Liver

In most cases, a slightly enlarged liver causes no symptoms. However, if your liver becomes severely enlarged, you may have:

  • A feeling of fullness
  • Abdominal discomfort

With liver disease, you may have other symptoms, such as jaundice, fatigue, weakness, nausea, and weight loss.

During a physical exam, your doctor can detect an enlarged liver on the right side of your abdomen. A variety of tests may also be needed to confirm the cause of an enlarged liver, including:

  • Blood tests to check for liver enzymes and other abnormalities related to liver disease
  • CT scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or ultrasound to view the liver
  • ERCP, a scope test to check for problems in the bile duct
  • MRCP, a special MRI test to check the inside of the bile duct
  • Liver biopsy, an examination of a sample of liver tissue to check for cancer or a fatty liver 

 

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