The liver is a vital organ of vertebrates and some other animals. In the human, it is located in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen, below the diaphragm. The liver has a wide range of functions, including detoxification of various metabolites, protein synthesis, and the production of biochemicals necessary for digestion. The liver is a gland and plays a major role in metabolism with numerous functions in the human body, including regulation of glycogen storage, decomposition of red blood cells, plasma protein synthesis, hormone production, and detoxification. It is an accessory digestive gland and produces bile, an alkaline compound which aids in digestion via the emulsification of lipids. The gallbladder, a small pouch that sits just under the liver, stores bile produced by the liver. The liver's highly specialized tissue consisting of mostly hepatocytes regulates a wide variety of high-volume biochemical reactions, including the synthesis and breakdown of small and complex molecules, many of which are necessary for normal vital functions. Estimates regarding the organ's total number of functions vary, but textbooks generally cite it being around 500. Terminology related to the liver often starts in hepat- from the Greek word for liver. There is currently no way to compensate for the absence of liver function in the long term, although liver dialysis techniques can be used in the short term. Artificial livers are yet to be developed to promote long term replacement in the absence of the liver. As of now,Liver transplantation is the only option for complete liver failure.
In vertebrates the gallbladder (also gall bladder, biliary vesicle or cholecyst), is a small organ where bile (a fluid produced by the liver) is stored and concentrated before it is released into the small intestine. Humans can live without a gallbladder. The surgical removal of the gallbladder is called a cholecystectomy.
The portal venous system is responsible for directing blood from parts of the gastrointestinal tract to the liver. Substances absorbed in the small intestine travel first to the liver for processing before continuing to the heart. Not all of the gastrointestinal tract is part of this system. The system extends from about the lower portion of the esophagus to the upper part of the anal canal. It also includes venous drainage from the spleen and pancreas. Many drugs that are absorbed through the GI tract are substantially metabolized by the liver before reaching general circulation. This is known as the first pass effect. As a consequence, certain drugs can only be taken via certain routes. For example, nitroglycerin cannot be swallowed because the liver would inactivate the medication, but it can be taken under the tongue or transdermal (through the skin) and thus is absorbed in a way that bypasses the portal venous system. Inversely, dextromethorphan, a cough suppressor, is best taken orally because it needs to be metabolised by the liver into dextrorphan in order to be effective. This latter principle is that of most prodrugs. The use of suppository is a way to by-pass partially the portal vein: the upper 1/3 of the rectum is drained into the portal vein while the lower 2/3 are drained into the internal iliac vein that goes directly in the inferior vena cava (thus by-passing the liver). Blood flow to the liver is unique in that it receives both oxygenated and (partially) deoxygenated blood. As a result, the partial gas pressure of oxygen (pO2) and perfusion pressure of portal blood are lower than in other organs of the body. Blood passes from branches of the portal vein through cavities between "plates" of hepatocytes called sinusoids. Blood also flows from branches of the hepatic artery and mixes in the sinusoids to supply the hepatocytes with oxygen. This mixture percolates through the sinusoids and collects in a central vein which drains into the hepatic vein. The hepatic vein subsequently drains into the inferior vena cava. The hepatic artery provides 30 to 40% of the oxygen to the liver, while only accounting for 25% of the total liver blood flow. The rest comes from the partially deoxygenated blood from the portal vein. The liver consumes about 20% of the total body oxygen when at rest. That is why the total liver blood flow is quite high, at about 1 litre a minute and up to two litres a minute. That is on average one fourth of the average cardiac output at rest.