Q+A: Do I have ‘runner’s liver’?

Q After suffering from some internal bleeding, I underwent a series of medical tests. These showed that all my baseline bio-readings were normal, but that my liver is larger than average, which my doctors suggest could be the cause of the bleeding. I know distance runners develop larger than average hearts; could this be the same for livers? Is there such a thing as ‘runner’s liver’?

A Just when one thinks that one has heard it all, a reader comes up with something entirely new. The liver is responsible for detoxifying the body, and helps to get waste and used metabolic material into a form in which it can be excreted or recycled. It is also responsible for glucose metabolism, bile production and storage of fat-soluble vitamins, and manufactures prothrombin and fibrinogen, which are needed to ensure adequate blood clotting.

The most common reasons behind damage to the liver are obesity and alcohol or drug use – drugs range from simple paracetamol through to many other types of therapeutic agent, which may cause damage, especially if taken in excess. You say that all of your baseline readings are normal, and I trust this includes a clotting profile, because if this was abnormal it could certainly cause the internal bleeding mentioned.

The short answer to your question is that I know of no such phenomenon as a ‘runner’s liver’. Some livers do have an extra lobe which can be mistaken for a large liver, but in all other respects the size and function of a liver depends purely on the degree of use and abuse to which it has been subjected.

Dr Patrick Milroy, RW Medical Advisor