Can You Live Without A Liver?

Can you live without a liver? No, you can’t. But firstly what really is a liver? With a weight of roughly three pounds (average size), the liver is the largest glandular organ in the human body (a four-lobed organ).

This is a major organ only found in vertebrates performing many important & essential biological functions ranging from detoxification of the human body, synthesis of proteins, aiding digestion and even enabling growth. This organ is located in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen.

This organ is a highly specialised tissue, consisting mostly of hepatocytes, which aid in regulation of a wide variety of high-volume biochemical reactions ranging from synthesis and breaking of minute and complex molecules of which are essential for normal vital functions.

Can you live without a liver? In our body, a lot of organs have the ability to heal themselves (regenerate) in minute portions. The liver organ has incredible regeneration ability too, so incredible that you can lose 40 – 65% of your liver and still survive as regeneration occurs. That inclusive, we humans cannot survive without our liver.


Absence of a liver is incompatible with life because without our liver it is impossible to live (even under intensive care, the duration/life span of such an individual is short). However, certain organs, such as an appendix, you can live without. Is a liver one of them?

A liver is far too important for you to live without. However, you can live with part of one. In fact, a portion of your liver can grow to full size in a few months. Regardless, you need a liver at all times. Besides knowing if you can live without a liver, there are certain aspects of the organ you should know. These include functions, what happens when you don’t have one, and more. Read on to find out.


Why do you need this knowledge?

The liver has approximately 500 vital functions in our human body. Functions of a Liver Protein synthesis Excretion of various waste products Metabolism (Glucose, drug, bilirubin and much more)Blood supply Breakdown ( Insulin & hormones)Blood reservoir.

The liver stores a multitude of fat soluble vitamins, from Vitamin A (a year to 2 years supply), Vitamin D (a month – 4 months supply), Vitamin B12, Vitamin K, E, Iron, Zinc etc. It helps in the purification of blood.

The liver plays a role in thyroid hormone function as the site deionization  of T4 to T3. It manages synthesis of nearly every plasma protein in the body, including; albumin, binding globulin, protein C, proteins and all the clotting factors of the intrinsic and extrinsic pathways. And so much more!

Can You Live Without a Liver?

The list of functions listed above indicates that you indeed cannot live without a liver. Here are some life-threatening issues that could occur without a liver:

  1. Without a liver, your blood would not clot properly, which will lead to uncontrolled bleeding.
  2. Your immune response would be slower, making you more likely to get fungal and bacterial infections.
  3. Your body would be unable to filter toxins and chemicals, leading to a buildup in the blood and life-threatening complications such as damage to other organs.
  4. You will not be able to survive more than a few days without a liver, and during that period, the experience would be agonizing.

So, without a functioning liver, there is a massive build up of ammonia from ingested protein which could lead to coma, loss of clotting proteins, which in turn could lead to life threatening bleeding, both intrinsic and extrinsic, eventually leading to a vascular collapse due to the absence of albumin.

Reason being that unlike the kidney and some other human organs, the liver is responsible for most essential complicated biochemical functions in the body, making survival with a total liver shutdown ranging from hours to a few days, at best.

To live without the absence of the liver’s function is not known, as a liver transplant is the only viable option for complete liver failure at it’s best.

Liver Failure 

There are two types of liver diseases. One is acute liver disease, and the other is chronic liver disease. Both acute and chronic liver disease can cause liver failure. Liver failure leads to a swift decline of the liver.

With acute liver disease, the symptoms show up rapidly; they begin to appear within four weeks. Some symptoms include nausea, mental disorientation, and jaundice.

This type of disease is usually caused by issues like drug toxicity and viral infections. While on the other hand, chronic liver disease takes a longer period to manifest. It could take months or even years to see symptoms.

These symptoms include vomiting blood and swollen abdomen. Some causes of chronic liver disease include liver cancer and alcohol misuse.

Treatment of Liver Failure 

The treatment required for liver failure depends on how far along the disease is. In some cases, your doctor may administer medications. In other cases, where a part of the liver is damaged, surgery is required.

Your doctor can use image testing to determine how damaged your liver is. In severe cases where the damage is too much, which occurs with acute liver disease, you might need a liver transplant.


Liver Transplant (Sub-heading under “Treatment of Liver Failure”)

There are two types of liver donor transplants. We have;

  • Deceased donor transplant
  • Living donor transplant

Living with Part of a Liver Living with part of your liver is possible. Though you may receive only a partial liver via transplant , your doctors will make sure it’s big enough to perform all necessary functions. Over time, the liver then regenerates, growing back to it’s normal size.

Preventing Liver Failure/Care for your Liver 

Don’t drink a lot of alcohol. Watch out for certain medicines. Be careful with herbs and dietary supplements. Avoid touching  or breathing in toxins. Subscribe to routine medical check ups.

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