Thumbnail image of: Liver, Gallbladder, and Pancreas: Illustration

Bruised Liver

What is a bruised liver?

A bruised liver is a type of injury to the liver.

The liver is one of the largest organs and a very important part of your body. Some of the functions of the liver include:

  • It helps your body get rid of some medicines and harmful substances.
  • It makes bile, which helps your body digest fats.
  • It stores sugar, which your body uses for energy.
  • It makes many proteins, which are the building blocks for all cells in your body.

What is the cause?

Car accidents are the most common cause of a bruised liver. It can also happen with other injuries, such as getting hit in the belly playing sports or in a fight, or if you fall onto your bicycle handlebars.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms depend on how your liver was injured and how severe the injury is. A common symptom is pain and tenderness in the upper right area of your belly, including under your ribs on the right side.

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms, medical history, how you were injured, and examine you.

You may have tests such as:

  • Blood tests
  • An ultrasound, which uses sound waves to show swelling, tears, and collections of blood in or near the liver
  • CT scan, which uses X-rays and a computer to show swelling of the liver, tears, and collections of blood in the liver. A CT scan can also show other injuries around the liver, such as broken ribs, which can tear the liver or cause bleeding

How is it treated?

If the physical exam and tests show no injuries other than a bruise, the treatment is rest and follow-up with your healthcare provider. You may have blood tests daily for a few days to check for blood loss. The CT scan or ultrasound may be repeated to check for new signs of liver injury or internal bleeding.

Recovery depends on how severe the injury was. For example, if the injury resulted from a simple fall onto a bicycle handle at low speed, it may only be a matter of days until the soreness is gone and liver tests are back to normal. If the injury happened in a bad motor vehicle accident, it may take days to weeks before liver tests are normal.

How can I take care of myself?

Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your healthcare provider. In addition:

  • If your liver blood tests are not normal, your provider may recommend not taking any medicines that might hurt the liver, including nonprescription drugs such as acetaminophen.
  • Your provider may tell you to avoid drinking alcohol until your liver is back to normal.
  • You may need to limit your activity–possibly even stay in bed–to avoid reinjury of your liver. For example, if you have broken ribs and are too active while the ribs are healing, the ribs could cause more damage to your liver.

Ask your provider:

  • How and when you will hear your test results
  • How long it will take to recover
  • If there are activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
  • How to take care of yourself at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

How can I help prevent a bruised liver?

Car accidents are the main cause, so wearing your seat belt can help decrease the risk.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-09-24
Last reviewed: 2014-09-24
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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