31 January 2020
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The liver is the largest organ in the body. It has a wide range of essential functions, including detoxification, protein synthesis, and production of biochemicals necessary for digestion.
The liver plays a major role in metabolism and has many functions in the body, including glycogen storage, decomposition of red blood cells, plasma protein synthesis, hormone production, and detoxification.
It produces bile, an alkaline compound which aids in digestion via the emulsification of lipids. The liver's specialised tissues regulate a wide variety of high-volume biochemical reactions, including the synthesis and breakdown of small and complex molecules, which are necessary for normal vital functions.
The liver lies just below the diaphragm, a muscle sheet that separates the lungs from the abdomen and helps us to breath. It can usually be felt just below the ribs on the right hand side of the abdomen.
Many non-cancerous liver conditions can be helped with surgery. Examples include liver cysts, haemangioma, adenoma and focal nodular hyperplasia.
Liver surgery can also be performed to treat cancer. Often surgery is combined with chemotherapy or other treatments to make the surgery more successful.
We pride ourselves on our clinical excellence, you'll be looked after by an experienced multi-disciplinary care team.
Our consultants have high standards to meet, often holding specialist NHS posts and delivering expertise in complex sub-specialty surgeries. A number of our consultants have international reputations for their research in their specialised field.
Our patients are at the heart of what we do and we want you to be in control of your care. To us, that means you can choose the surgeon you want to work with, when you want, and where you want from across our network of hospitals and many clinics across the UK. They’ll be with you every step of the way: from giving advice at your first consultation, through to offering on-going support after your surgery.
All of our surgeons are of the highest calibre and benefit from working in our modern, well equipped hospitals. If you don't have someone in mind, we can help you choose the best consultant for you.
Liver surgery is not something anyone should rush into.
You will have several formal consultations with a healthcare professional. During this time you will be able to explain your medical history, symptoms and raise any concerns that you might have.
We will also discuss with you whether any further diagnostic tests, such as scans or blood tests, are needed. Any additional costs will be discussed before further tests are carried out.
We've tried to make your experience with us as easy and relaxed as possible.
For more information on visiting hours, our food, what to pack if you're staying with us, parking and all those other important practicalities, please visit our patient information pages.
Our dedicated team will also give you tailored advice to follow in the run up to your visit.
One or two weeks before your operation you will be asked to attend a pre-admission clinic for a blood pressure check and routine blood and urine tests. A nurse or physiotherapist will talk to you about your needs at home, so that any necessary arrangements can be planned before you go into hospital.
Most liver surgery is done through a conventional abdominal incision, most often a cut from just below the breast bone to just above the navel and across to the right side below the ribs.
This is because the liver sits beneath the rib-cage, which protects it on a day-today basis, and good access is necessary to safely carry out this complex surgery.
Some liver operations can be done using minimal access techniques, known as laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery. The first stage involves assessing the degree of liver involvement. A scan may be done during the surgery, to check the findings of the preoperative tests.
Special surgical tools such as ultrasonic dissectors are used to cut through the liver, sealing blood vessels and bile ducts on the cut surface. Sometimes it is necessary to remove the bile duct and make a new one using a piece of intestine.
Although it sounds complicated, please remember that our consultants have extensive experience in performing this kind of surgery.
Liver surgery is usually quite complex and it can take anywhere between one and 12 hours to achieve the best possible results.
The time it takes is not important – it is important that everything is done carefully to maximise the chance of cure and the safety of the procedure.
After the operation, it is likely that you will need to spend some time in our specialist high dependency unit. Once the consultant feels you are well enough, you will be taken to your own room where you will be looked after by our experienced nursing team until we feel you’re ready to go home.
It is rare these days for patients to undergo surgery without a reasonable chance of success. A full assessment using the most modern scanning techniques before surgery, such as CT, MRI and PET-CT scans, help to ensure that most patients undergo surgery with a good chance of cure or at least many extra years of healthy life. Cancer cure rates are improving every year.
We will discuss this with you and give you a clear indication based on exactly what is known at the current time about your case.
We are committed to delivering excellent individual care and customer service across our network of hospitals, clinics and specialist care centres around the UK. Our dedicated and highly trained team aim to achieve consistently excellent results. For us it's more than just treating patients, it's about looking after people.
The treatment described on this page may be adapted to meet your individual needs, so it's important to follow your healthcare professional's advice and raise any questions that you may have with them.
21 October 2019
Read our latest Q and A with ENT Consultant, Mr Jonathn Hughes on head and neck cancer.