Your liver grows as you age, though certain health conditions, including acute hepatitis and fatty liver disease, can cause an enlarged liver. A large liver doesn’t always cause symptoms.
The liver is the body’s largest and heaviest internal organ. It serves many important purposes, including regulating levels of chemicals in the blood, making bile to digest fats, and making cholesterol, blood plasma proteins, and immune factors.
In adults, the liver weighs a little more than 3 pounds.
As you age, the liver varies in size, and certain health conditions can enlarge it.
Men tend to have a larger liver size than women. This is usually because men’s bodies tend to be larger. While liver sizes can vary slightly, there are some studies about the average liver size by age.
One such study was published in the journal Indian Pediatrics. The researchers performed ultrasound evaluation of 597 healthy children between the ages of 1 and 12 years.
The following are the results of the study measuring the average liver length for boys:
|Age||Liver length (Boys)|
|1 to 3 months||2.6 in. (6.5 cm)|
|3 to 6 months||2.8 in. (7.1 cm)|
|6 to 12 months||3.0 in. (7.5 cm)|
|1 to 2 years||3.4 in. (8.6 cm)|
|2 to 4 years||3.5 in. (9.0 cm)|
|4 to 6 years||4.1 in. (10.3 cm)|
|6 to 8 years||4.3 in. (10.8 cm)|
|8 to 10 years||4.7 in. (11.9 cm)|
|10 to 12 years||5.0 in. (12.6 cm)|
The following are the results for liver length in girls:
|Age||Liver length (Girls)|
|1 to 3 months||2.4 in. (6.2 cm)|
|3 to 6 months||2.8 in. (7.2 cm)|
|6 to 12 months||3.1 in. (7.9 cm)|
|1 to 2 years||3.3 in. (8.5 cm)|
|2 to 4 years||3.5 in. (8.9 cm)|
|4 to 6 years||3.9 in. (9.8 cm)|
|6 to 8 years||4.3 in. (10.9 cm)|
|8 to 10 years||4.6 in. (11.7 cm)|
|10 to 12 years||4.8 in. (12.3 cm)|
Liver size can vary by sex, body mass index, height, amount of alcohol consumed, and many other factors.
An older study published in the
The study’s results found the following:
|Age||Average liver diameter|
|18 to 25 years||5.4 in. (13.6 cm)|
|26 to 35 years||5.4 in. (13.7 cm)|
|36 to 45 years||5.5 in. (14.0 cm)|
|46 to 55 years||5.6 in. (14.2 cm)|
|56 to 65 years||5.7 in. (14.4 cm)|
|Greater than 66 years||5.6 in. (14.1 cm)|
The study represents one of the largest populations studied regarding average liver length, and it concluded that the average liver size in adults was 5.5 inches (in.), or 14 centimeters (cm).
Doctors use imaging studies to estimate liver size. Sometimes, when the liver is extremely enlarged, a doctor can identify the enlargement on an X-ray. When they want greater accuracy, they’ll usually use ultrasound.
Ultrasound is a painless imaging technique that uses sound waves to compare solid organs with other surroundings, such as blood. Because ultrasound uses sound waves, it doesn’t expose a person to radiation, like many imaging techniques do.
Typically, a person who specializes in ultrasound, known as an ultrasonographer, or a liver doctor will perform the ultrasound. You’ll lie down, and they’ll use a special wand device to transmit images of the liver to an ultrasound screen. The size of the liver is measured on the screen.
The liver isn’t a proportional organ. Its lobes are different sizes and can be larger and smaller in areas depending on where the ultrasound professional is taking measurements. These differences can cause some variance accuracy. A doctor will also usually compare these results with other imaging studies, which may include a CT scan.
The condition of having an enlarged liver is called hepatomegaly. When the liver gets larger, it doesn’t always cause symptoms. Some people may report a feeling of abdominal fullness or pressure.
A variety of medical conditions can cause an enlarged liver.
Acute hepatitis is inflammation of the liver caused by one of the five hepatitis viruses. The body may clear the virus or a person can develop chronic hepatitis, such as hepatitis B or hepatitis C.
Biliary atresia is a rare condition that affects the size or presence of the bile ducts. It often requires surgery to treat.
Cirrhosis can be the result of chronic alcohol consumption, hepatitis, or other liver-related conditions. Treatments for cirrhosis slow the progression of further scarring.
Fatty liver is a condition that can occur due to heavy alcohol use or having more weight. It can be reversed in early stages with weight loss and abstaining from alcohol.
Infectious mononucleosis is a viral disease caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. Many people will feel better in 2 weeks to several months.
Various cancers can affect the liver. Treatments depend on the cancer type but may include surgery and radiation.
Right heart failure
Right heart failure can cause excess fluid to build up in the liver’s blood vessels. Treatments usually aim to reduce fluid buildup and improve heart function in this serious heart failure side effect.
Additionally, rare diseases like Gaucher’s disease, Wilson’s disease, or Niemann-Pick disease can cause liver enlargement. Treatments for these diseases depend on the condition.
If you have an enlarged liver, your doctor will likely consider your overall symptoms, medical history, and imaging and blood studies before making a diagnosis.
Because your liver is so vital to your health, you should do the following to maintain good liver health:
- Maintain a healthy weight for you. Having more weight can lead to a condition called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
- Exercise at least 30 minutes a day. Exercise helps burn excess fat for energy. This also reduces the likelihood you’ll have fatty liver disease. Even if you feel like you don’t have 30 minutes to spare, try breaking up exercise into two 15-minute sessions or three 10-minute sessions.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking contains toxins that can injure your liver cells and most other cells in your body. Quitting can be very difficult, but a doctor can help you create a plan that’s right for you.
- Limit alcohol consumption. If you drink, one drink a day for women and no more than two drinks a day for men is a moderate, liver-friendly amount. If you already have a condition that affects your liver function, a doctor may suggest that you not drink at all.
- Avoid toxins. Chemicals like cleaning products, aerosols, insecticides, and additives all contain toxins that can damage your liver. Take proper safety precautions, such as wearing a mask and gloves, and use them in a ventilated area.
- Protect against hepatitis. Hepatitis B and C are two forms of liver disease that can cause chronic damage. They’re usually transmitted sexually or from sharing needles with a person who has these conditions.
- Don’t mix drugs and alcohol. The liver filters many medications, as well as alcohol. Combining the two can place too much demand on your liver and lead to damage. If you take a lot of medications, including supplements, it’s a good idea to review the list with a doctor to ensure you’re not overdoing it.
- Get vaccinated. There are vaccines available for hepatitis A and hepatitis B. They can help protect you and your liver.
If you have more questions about keeping your liver healthy, talk to a doctor.
The liver is an important organ that grows as you age. If the liver is enlarged, a doctor may perform various imaging studies and other tests to determine an underlying cause. If you’re concerned that your symptoms are the result of liver enlargement, talk to a doctor.