Hepatomegaly

Definition

Hepatomegaly is swelling of the liver beyond its normal size.

If both the liver and spleen are enlarged, it is called hepatosplenomegaly.

See also: Splenomegaly

Alternative Names

Hepatosplenomegaly; Enlarged liver; Liver enlargement

Considerations

The lower edge of the liver normally comes just to the lower edge of the ribs on the right side. The edge of the liver is normally thin and firm. It cannot be felt with the fingertips below the edge of the ribs, except when you take a deep breath. It may be enlarged if a health care provider can feel it in this area.

Causes

The liver is involved in many of the body's functions. It is affected by many conditions that can cause hepatomegaly, including:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

This condition is usually discovered by a health care provider. You may not be aware of the liver or spleen swelling.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

The doctor will examine you and ask questions such as:

  • Did you notice a fullness or lump in the abdomen?
  • What other symptoms do you have?
  • 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 a fever?
  • What medications are you taking?
  • How much alcohol do you drink?

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

References

Bergasa MV. Approach to the patient with liver disease. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 149.

Pratt DS. Liver chemistry and function tests. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 73.


Review Date: 5/22/2011
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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