The haematology of liver disease.

Morag Chisholm


In the early weeks of foetal development the liver is the main site of production of red cells, white cells and platelets. With increasing maturity of the foetus, this function is taken over by the bone marrow, but the liver still retains a potential for haemopoiesis even in adult life. After birth the major active role of the liver in relation to the blood is in the destruction and removal of red cells, and the synthesis of coagulation factors and transferrin, the carrier protein for iron. It is an important storage organ for Vitamin B12 and to a lesser extent folic acid and iron. The main haematological consequence of liver disease is the development of red cell abnormalities and anaemia due to a variety of causes; white cell changes occur less commonly and are rarely of diagnostic importance. Coagulation abnormalities and thrombocytopaenia are frequently found in liver disease and may present problems in patient management.

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