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Overview of the liver

Learning objectives

This study unit will teach you how to:

  1. Describe the structure and function of the liver, including its lobes and fissures.
  2. Identify the ligaments associated with the liver.
  3. Become familiar with the location of the liver in the abdomen.
  4. Understand the anatomical relations of the liver.

Watch video

The liver is a large accessory organ of the gastrointestinal tract with metabolic, endocrine and exocrine functions. It is located mainly in the right hypochondrium and epigastrium, with a small portion extending into the left hypochondrium. The liver is divided into the right, left, quadrate and caudate lobes. It is covered in visceral peritoneum, except for the bare area, where it is in contact with the diaphragm; therefore has a diaphragmatic and a visceral surfaces. Its location means it has numerous relations to other organs and structures of the body:

  • Superior: Diaphragm
  • Anterior: Ribs (7-11th), anterior abdominal wall
  • Posteroinferior: Esophagus, right kidney and adrenal gland, right colic flexure, lesser omentum, duodenum, gallbladder, stomach

The position of the liver is secured with the following ligaments: coronary, left and right triangular, falciform, round ligaments, ligamentum venosum and lesser omentum.

The following video will teach you some key facts about the anatomy of the liver, with special emphasis on its relations to the nearby structures.

Take a quiz

Apply what you’ve learned so far by testing your knowledge with the following quiz:

You can select the exact structures you want to be quizzed on by clicking on the link below:

Browse atlas

Review what you’ve learned by analyzing each structure individually through this atlas gallery.


Key points about the liver
Location Right hypochondriac and epigastric regions
Anatomy Lobes: Right, left, caudate, quadrate
: Diaphragmatic, visceral
: Main portal fissure, right portal fissure, left portal fissure, umbilical fissure (fissure for ligamentum teres, fissure for ligamentum venosum)
: Coronary, left triangular, right triangular, falciform, round, ligamentum venosum, hepatogastric, hepatoduodenal
Function Metabolic, endocrine and exocrine functions (xenobiotic biotransformation, protein synthesis, nutrient storage, bile production)
Relations Superior: Diaphragm
r: 7th-11th ribs, anterior abdominal wall
: Esophagus, stomach, gallbladder, duodenum, right kidney, right suprarenal gland, right colic flexure, lesser omentum

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