Health Illustrated Encyclopedia

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 (costal margin) on the right side. In its normal state, the edge of the liver is thin and firm, and it cannot be felt with the finger tips below the edge of the ribs. It may be considered enlarged if a doctor can feel it in this area.

Causes

The liver is involved in many bodily functions and is affected by a variety of conditions, many of which result in hepatomegaly.

Causes of hepatomegaly may include:

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 any fever?
  • What medications are you taking?
  • How much alcohol do you drink?

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


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Review Date: 11/13/2007
Reviewed By: Christian Stone, M.D., Division of Gastroenterology, Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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