Understanding a Bruised Liver

Outline of man showing digestive tract and liver.

A bruise (contusion) is a type of injury. It occurs when small blood vessels break open and leak blood into nearby tissues. The liver is a large organ located in the upper right part of the belly (abdomen). It sits under the right ribs. It can become bruised after an injury to the area.

What causes a bruised liver?

Common causes of a bruised liver include:

  • Car accidents 

  • Direct blows to your belly. This may happen while playing a sport or while in a physical fight.

  • Falls that injure your belly

Symptoms of a bruised liver

You may feel pain and tenderness in the upper right part of your belly. You may also feel pain under your right ribs, in the right side of your chest, or in your right shoulder. In some cases, you may have bruised skin over the injured area.

Treatment for a bruised liver

Treatment for a bruised liver depends on how severe the injury is. Many cases can often be managed without surgery. But you may still need:

  • Close monitoring in the hospital

  • Bed rest and IV (intravenous) fluids

  • Tests to check for blood loss and other injuries

  • Blood transfusions

For a minor bruise

For a minor bruise with little blood loss, you may be discharged from the hospital within a few days. Home care may involve further rest. You may also need to stop some activities until your liver heals. You may also need follow-up care with your healthcare provider.

For a severe case

For severe blood loss or if other injuries are involved, you may need a procedure or surgery. These may be used to:

  • Drain excess fluids or blood from your belly

  • Find and stop the source of bleeding in your liver or belly

  • Fix damage to your liver and other injuries as needed

Possible complications of a bruised liver

These can include:

  • Severe blood loss, which can lead to shock

  • Infection

  • Problems with the pathways (bile ducts) that carry bile from the liver to nearby organs

  • Abdominal compartment syndrome. This occurs when pressure in the belly is higher than normal.

  • Death

Call 911

Call 911 right away if you have signs of shock. These include:

  • Pale skin

  • Rapid pulse

  • Shallow breathing

  • Dizziness

  • Fainting

  • Confusion

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your provider

  • Symptoms that don’t get better with treatment, or get worse

  • Yellowish skin or eyes (jaundice)

  • New symptoms