Enlarged liver

Alternative names
Hepatosplenomegaly; Hepatomegaly; Liver enlargement

Definition
Hepatomegaly is the enlargement of the liver beyond its normal size. Hepatosplenomegaly is enlargement of both the liver and the spleen - see splenomegaly.

Considerations

The lower edge of the liver normally comes just to the lower edge of the ribs (costal margin) on the right side. In its normal state, the edge of the liver is thin and firm, and it cannot be palpated (felt with the finger tips) below the edge of the costal margin.

If the liver becomes enlarged enough that it can be palpated below the costal margin, the patient may have hepatomegaly. The diagnosis must be confirmed by an imaging study of the liver.

The liver is involved in many bodily functions, and is affected by a variety of conditions, many of which result in hepatomegaly. General causes include infection (viral, bacterial, or parasitic), malignancy (cancer or tumors), anemias, storage diseases, Heart failure, congenital heart disease, toxins, and metabolic disturbances.

Common Causes

Home Care
Contact your health care provider.

Call your health care provider if
This finding is usually discovered by the health care provider, and the affected individual may or may not have been aware of its presence.

What to expect at your health care provider’s office

The medical history will be obtained. This finding is usually discovered by the health care provider during a physical examination.

Medical history questions documenting hepatomegaly in detail include:

     
  • When did you notice a fullness or lump in the abdomen?  
  • How much has it changed or enlarged?  
  • What other symptoms are also present?  
  • Is there any abdominal pain?  
  • Is there any yellowing of the skin (jaundice)?  
  • Is there any vomiting?  
  • Is there any unusual-colored or pale-colored stools?  
  • Have you had any fevers?  
  • What medications are you taking?  
  • How much alcohol do you consume?

Diagnostic tests to determine the cause of the hepatomegaly vary depending on the suspected cause, but may include:

After seeing your health care provider:
You may want to add a diagnosis related to hepatomegaly to your personal medical record.

Last Edited: 15 Aug. 2005

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 5, 2012
by Potos A. Aagen, M.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.