AASLD: American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases

Acetaminophen: a non-asprin pain reliever and anti-inflammatory medication that can, if taken in excess, with alcohol, or by those with impaired liver function, may cause liver damage

Acute: a sudden and often severe onset of an illness

AFP: alpha-fetoprotein; a protein found in the bloodstream that, in adults, is an indicator of possible liver cancer

Alagille syndrome: genetic condition characterized by fewer than normal small bile ducts inside the liver that can cause bile buildup in the liver

Albumin: a protein made in the liver that circulates through the bloodstream and plays a role in fluid distribution throughout the body

ALF: American Liver Foundation

AFP: alpha fetoprotein; a protein secreted by cancerous tumors into the blood

Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency: an inherited disorder that can cause liver disease, jaundice, and cirrhosis

ALP: also ALK-PHOS; alkaline-phosphate; an enzyme mostly produced in the bile ducts and measured in liver function tests but is not specific to the liver. High levels of ALP in the blood indicate liver injury

ALT: alanine-aminotransferase; an enzyme mostly produced by liver cells and measured in liver function tests. High levels of ALT in the blood indicate liver injury and is the most sensitive indicator to liver injury.

Ascites: abnormal collection of fluid in the abdomen oftentimes caused by liver failure

AST: aspartate aminotransferase; high levels of AST in the blood can be an indicator of liver damage

Autoimmune: a condition in which the body’s immune system targets part of the body for attack

Autoimmune hepatitis: a disease that involves the body’s immune system attacking its own liver cells, causing hepatic inflammation. Untreated, autoimmune hepatitis can lead to cirrhosis and liver failure

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Benign: not malignant; benign tumors do not invade surrounding tissue or metastasize to other parts of the body

Bile: yellow-green liquid that is excreted from the liver, stored in the gall bladder and passes into the small intestine to aid in the digestion of food by breaking down fat

Bile duct: tube that carries bile from the liver to the gallbladder for storage and then to the intestines for use in digestion

Biliary atresia: a congenital disorder characterized by malformation of the biliary tract in which biliary ductules fail to adequately form and cannot collect bile from the liver.

Bilirubin: the product of the chemical breakdown of hemoglobin. The liver removes bilirubin from the blood and secretes it as a component of bile.

Biopsy: removal and examination of a small piece of body tissue

Budd-Chiari syndrome: a rare liver disease that occurs as the veins that drain blood from the liver are narrowed or blocked

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CDC: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Child-Pugh score: a score based on five clinical features that can be used to determine prognosis of chronic liver disease and cirrhosis or with the MELD score to determine liver transplantation priority. The five clinical features are: total bilirubin level, serum albumin, international normalized ratio, degree of ascites, and degree of hepatic encephaly.

Cholangiocarcinoma: cancer of the bile ducts

Cholangitis: irritated or inflamed bile ducts causing poor bile flow from the liver and potentially causing damage to hepatocytes

Cholestasis: Interrupted bile flow through the biliary system resulting in reduced bile reaching the intestine.

Chronic: disease or condition which persists over a period of time, usually with a gradual onset

Cirrhosis: a condition characterized by scarring of and damage to the liver. Cirrhosis inhibits normal liver function and can be caused by viral, genetic, autoimmune, bacterial, and lifestyle diseases.

Chemotherapy: use of drugs to stop growth of cancer cells by either killing them or by preventing them from dividing

CLF: Canadian Liver Foundation

Clinical trial: research study that aims to answer medical questions and solve health problems

Congenital: a condition or disease present at or before birth

CT: computerized tomography; diagnostic imaging tool that uses x-rays to create detailed pictures of the body

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Donor: a person who donates an organ, tissue, or blood to another person

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EASL: European Association for the Study of the Liver

ELPA: European Liver Patients’ Association

ESLD: end-stage liver disease

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Fatty liver disease: accumulation of fat in the liver causing abnormal liver function

FDA: Food and Drug Administration

FibroScanⓇ: a non-invasive technology quantifying fibrosis and steatosis

Fibrosis: formation of scar tissue in place of normal tissue

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Gastroenterologist: doctor who specializes in digestive diseases

GGT: gamma glutamyl transpeptidase; enzyme found in the blood that is an indicator of liver injury

GLI: Global Liver Institute

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Hemochromatosis: an inherited genetic disorder characterized by abnormally high iron absorption in the intestines causing high levels of iron storage in the liver and several other organs. Hemochromatosis can cause cirrhosis and liver failure.

Hepatic: relating to the liver

Hepatic artery: the blood vessel that delivers blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the liver

Hepatitis: swelling and inflammation of the liver

Hepatitis A: caused by the hepatitis A virus; spread by contact with food, water, or other means that have been contaminated with the feces of an individual infected with hepatitis A.

Hepatitis B: caused by the hepatitis B virus; transmitted through the bodily fluids of an individual infected with hepatitis B. There is a vaccine for hepatitis B that has caused an 82% decrease in hepatitis B cases since its discovery.

Hepatitis C: caused by the hepatitis C virus; transmitted through contact with the blood of an individual infected with the hepatitis C virus. There is a cure for hepatitis C, but it is costly and not always covered by insurance.

Hepatitis D: caused by the hepatitis D virus; hepatitis D can only occur in individuals who are also infected with the hepatitis B virus. Transmission of hepatitis D occurs in the same ways as hepatitis B, thus the hepatitis B vaccine is effective in also preventing hepatitis D.

Hepatitis E: caused by the hepatitis E virus; spread by contact with food, water, or other means that have been contaminated with the feces of an individual infected with hepatitis E. Hepatitis E is very rare in the United States, and is more common in underdeveloped regions of the world. It may also be transmitted through contact with wild boar and pigs.

Hepatitis G: a newly discovered form of hepatitis, hepatitis G is believed to be spread through contact with the blood of those infected with the hepatitis G virus, most commonly through intravenous drug use. Hepatitis G also infects individuals with clotting disorders such as hemophilia and individuals who rely on hemodialysis for kidney failure.

Hepatocellular carcinoma: most common form of primary liver cancer

Hepatologist: a doctor who specializes in liver health and disease

Hepatology: the study of the liver

Hepatomegaly: enlargement of the liver causing it to be felt below the ribs

HHS: United States Department of Health and Human Services

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Icteric: technical term for jaundice

Idiopathic: condition or disease of unknown cause

Immuno-oncology: the study and development of treatments that take advantage of the body’s immune system to fight cancer

Immunosuppressant: any medication that causes the body’s immune system to weaken or stop working

Interventional Radiology: minimally invasive, image-guided treatment of medical conditions that once required open surgery using ultrasound, X-rays, CAT scans, MRI scans or other innovative methods

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Jaundice: a yellow appearance to the skin and sclerae (whites of the eyes) caused by an excess buildup of bilirubin in the blood

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Kasai procedure: treatment method for biliary atresia that restores bile flow

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Liver enzyme test: also liver function test; range of blood tests that examine how well the liver and biliary system function

Liver function test: also liver enzyme test; range of blood tests that examine how well the liver and biliary system function

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Metastasis: spread of cancer cells to different parts of the body

Malignant: cancerous tumor that has the potential to spread to other parts of the body

MELD Score: Model for End-Stage Liver Disease; measure of mortality risk in patients with end-stage liver disease used as a disease severity index to help prioritize allocation of organs for transplant

MRE: magnetic resonance enterography; diagnostic imaging tool used to assess certain gastrointestinal disorders

MRI: magnetic resonance imaging; diagnostic imaging tool that uses magnets, radiofrequencies, and computers to images of structures inside the body

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NAFLD: nonalcoholic fatty liver disease

NASH: nonalcoholic steatohepatitis

NCI: National Cancer Institute

NIDDK: National Institute of Diabetes and DIgestive and Kidney Diseases

NIH: National Institutes of Health

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PBC: primary biliary cholangitis; autoimmune disease characterized by loss of the bile ducts that ultimately leads to cirrhosis

PSC: primary sclerosing cholestasis; autoimmune disease causing scarring, irritation, and narrowing of bile ducts both inside and outside of the liver

Pruritus: severe itching

PTLD: post transplant lymphoproliferative diseases; a condition occurring in transplant patients that is likely caused by an interaction between the Epstein Barr virus and immunosuppressant drugs. PTLD can progress until it becomes lymphoma, a cancer of the blood.

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Rejection: attack of the body’s immune system on a transplanted organ as though it were diseased or injured. This can be acute, with sudden onset, or chronic, which happens over a long period of time and is less likely to respond to treatment

Reye’s Syndrome: acute and severe childhood liver disease that occurs after acute viral illness and acetaminophen use

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Sonography: also ultrasound; diagnostic imaging tool that uses high-frequency sound waves and computers to create images of tissue, organs, and vessels

Stenosis: also stricture; abnormal narrowing of a body opening

Steroid: medication meant to reduce the activity of the body’s immune system

Stricture: also stenosis; abnormal narrowing of a body opening

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Targeted therapy: drugs or other substances that block the growth and spread of cancer by interfering with specific molecules involved in the growth, progression, or spread of cancer

Tumor: mass of abnormal cells

Transplant: surgical procedure that involves removing a diseased liver and replacing it with a liver, or part of a liver, that functions adequately

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Ultrasound: also sonography; diagnostic imaging tool that uses high-frequency sound waves and computers to create images of tissue, organs, and vessels

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Varices: veins that are stretched and thinned as a result of impaired liver function. Varices are often found in the digestive tract, especially in the esophagus as esophageal varices.

Viral hepatitis: liver inflammation caused by a virus

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WHO: World Health Organization

Wilson’s disease: an inherited disease characterized by excess accumulation of copper in the liver and other organs

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This content is intended to provide helpful health information to the general public. This content is not intended as medical advice for individual problems. Global Liver Institute, including its board of directors and staff personnel, specifically disclaim all responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk, personal or otherwise, which is incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, of the use and application of any of the GLI content.


Cheung A, Andrew Cheung M. The Child-Pugh score: Prognosis in chronic liver disease and cirrhosis [Classics Series] | 2 Minute Medicine. 2 Minute Medicine. 2017. Available at: https://www.2minutemedicine.com/the-child-pugh-score-prognosis-in-chronic-liver-disease-and-cirrhosis-classics-series/.  Accessed November 7, 2017.

FibroScan® The reference solution for non-invasive liver diagnosis. Fibroscancom. 2017. Available at: http://www.fibroscan.com/en/.  Accessed November 7, 2017.

For Medical Professionals - Model for End-Stage Liver Disease (MELD). Mayo Clinic. 2017. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/medical-professionals/model-end-stage-liver-disease. Accessed November 7, 2017.

Glossary - Liver, Biliary, and Pancreatic Disorders | Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library. Hopkinsmedicineorg. 2017. Available at: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/liver_biliary_and_pancreatic_disorders/glossary_-_liver_biliary_and_pancreatic_disorders_85,P00670.  Accessed November 7, 2017.

Glossary. Livertoxnihgov. 2017. Available at: https://livertox.nih.gov/glossary.html. Accessed November 7, 2017.

Glossary of Liver Terms - C.L.A.S.S. Liver Disease Resource Center. Classkidsorg. 2017. Available at: http://www.classkids.org/glossary-of-liver-terms.html. Accessed November 7, 2017.

Immuno-Oncology | Treatments for Cancer | CancerCare. CancerCare. 2017. Available at: https://www.cancercare.org/publications/285-understanding_the_role_of_immuno-oncology_in_treating_cancer.  Accessed November 7, 2017.

Liver Glossary of Terms with Medical Definitions. eMedicineHealth. 2017. Available at: https://www.emedicinehealth.com/liver/glossary_em.htm. Accessed November 7, 2017.

Melissa Conrad Stoppler, MD. Alpha-Fetoprotein Blood Test: Meaning of AFP Results. MedicineNet. 2017. Available at: https://www.medicinenet.com/alpha-fetoprotein_blood_test/article.htm. Accessed November 7, 2017.

Overview | The Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation. Cholangiocarcinomaorg. 2017. Available at: https://cholangiocarcinoma.org/the-disease/defined/. Accessed November 7, 2017.

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