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Liver Laceration: Management & Recovery

Instructor: Justine Fritzel

Justine has been a Registered Nurse for 10 years and has a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing degree.

A laceration to your liver can be a life-threatening injury. In this lesson, we will learn about the management and recovery following a liver laceration.

I'm on my way to the Hospital!

It was like any other day. Sally and her coworker were pulling out of the drive-thru after picking up a hot coffee on their way to work. From out of nowhere, another car came around the corner and hit the passenger side door. Sally and her coworker were so shook up that they didn't even know what happened. After a minute of pulling their thoughts together, they realized how lucky they were that there wasn't more damage to the car or to them.

The two checked to make sure the other was ok. The impact on Sally's side caused damage to her door, but she didn't see any obvious injuries and felt like she was fine. It didn't seem that either of them needed medical attention. But Sally's door was so smashed that she couldn't get it open, and once she started moving more, she noticed her right side was hurting especially when she took a deep breath. They decided to call 911.

What is a Liver Laceration?

Upon her arrival to the emergency room, the doctors assess Sally, order blood work, and send her for tests. After what seemed like forever, the doctor tells her that she has a liver laceration. While Sally doesn't quite know what that is, she does know that her liver is an important part of her body. But just what exactly does it do? And what does a laceration mean?

The liver is a solid organ in the right, upper part of the abdomen. It is partially protected behind the ribs. Blood goes through the liver to metabolize nutrients, medications, and remove toxins from the body. At any given time, an entire pint of blood may be in the liver. It's important to know that a person cannot live without a functioning liver.

Anatomy of the Abdomen
abdomen

A liver laceration is an injury to the liver resulting in a tear. The most common causes of liver lacerations include motor vehicle accidents and wounds from gunshots or stabbings. Because of the size of the liver, it is one of the most commonly injured organs in abdominal injuries. And since a pint of blood can be in the liver at a time, a laceration can result in bleeding that can be a life-threatening emergency.

After learning this information, Sally is anxious to know what happens from here.

Management and Recovery of a Liver Injury

The doctor explains that he will need to do some more tests to determine how severe Sally's liver laceration is. Bleeding is the main concern with a liver laceration but most will stop bleeding on their own. This is a serious injury and a high percentage of people die from bleeding from a liver laceration.

Treatment options can range from monitoring her condition to requiring surgery to stop the bleeding. Surgery can include removing damaged parts of the liver to repairing damaged blood vessels or may even require packing of the liver to stop the bleeding. If Sally has had too much blood loss, she may require a blood transfusion. Either way, the doctor tells her she will need to be admitted to the hospital to be monitored closely.

After a few more tests, the doctor tells Sally that her vital signs are stable. Vital signs include blood pressure, pulse, respirations, temperature, and oxygen saturation. Her blood levels came back fine as well. He further explains that she is still bleeding from her liver laceration and discusses the risks of ongoing bleeding with her.

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