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A hepatic lobule is a small division of the liver defined at the microscopic (histological scale). The hepatic lobule is a building block of the liver matter, consisting of a portal triad, hepatocytes arranged in linear cords between a capillary network, and a central vein.

Lobules of liver
2423 Microscopic Anatomy of Liver.jpg
The structure of the liver’s functional units or lobules. Blood enters the lobules through branches of the portal vein and hepatic artery proper, then flows through sinusoids.
Latinlobuli hepatis
Anatomical terms of microanatomy

It should not be confused with the anatomic lobes of the liver (caudate lobe, quadrate lobe, left lobe, and right lobe), or any of the functional lobe classification systems.

The two-dimensional microarchitecture of the liver can be viewed from multiple different perspectives:[1]

Name Shape Model
classical lobule[2] hexagonal; divided into concentric centrilobular, midzonal, periportal parts anatomical
portal lobule[3] triangular; centered on a portal triad bile secretion
acinus [4] elliptical or diamond-shaped; divided into zone I (periportal), zone II (transition zone), and zone III (pericentral) blood flow and metabolic

The term "hepatic lobule", without qualification, typically refers to the classical lobule.



Oxygenation zones are numbered inside the diamond-shaped acinus (in red). The zone closest to the central vein is zone three; zones closest to the portal triad are zone one

The hepatic lobule can be described in terms of metabolic "zones", describing the hepatic acinus (terminal acinus). Each zone is centered on the line connecting two portal triads and extends outwards to the two adjacent central veins. The periportal zone I is nearest to the entering vascular supply and receives the most oxygenated blood, making it least sensitive to ischemic injury while making it very susceptible to viral hepatitis. Conversely, the centrilobular zone III has the poorest oxygenation, and will be most affected during a time of ischemia.[5]

Portal triadEdit

Portal triad
Labeled sketch of a portal canal
Portal triad of a rat liver, 1 branch of hepatic artery, 2 branch of portal vein, 3 bile duct

A portal triad (also known as portal canal, portal field[citation needed], portal area[citation needed], or portal tract[citation needed]) is a distinctive arrangement within lobules. It consists of the following five structures:[6]

The misnomer "portal triad" traditionally has included only the first three structures, and was named before lymphatic vessels were discovered in the structure.[7][8] It can refer both to the largest branch of each of these vessels running inside the hepatoduodenal ligament, and to the smaller branches of these vessels inside the liver.

In the smaller portal triads, the four vessels lie in a network of connective tissue and are surrounded on all sides by hepatocytes. The ring of hepatocytes abutting the connective tissue of the triad is called the periportal limiting plate.


Zones differ by function:

Other zonal injury patterns include zone I deposition of hemosiderin in hemochromatosis and zone II necrosis in yellow fever.[9]

Clinical significanceEdit

Bridging fibrosis, a type of fibrosis seen in several types of liver injury, describes fibrosis from the central vein to the portal triad.[11]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Cell and Tissue Structure at U. Va.
  2. ^ Histology image: 88_03 at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center
  3. ^ Histology image: 88_09a at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center
  4. ^ Histology image: 88_09b at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center
  5. ^ B.R. Bacon; J.G. O'Grady; A.M. Di Bisceglie; J.R. Lake (2006). Comprehensive Clinical Hepatology. Elsevier Health Sciences. ISBN 0-323-03675-9.
  6. ^ Mescher, Anthony L. (2013). Junqueira’s Basic Histology text and atlas. McGraw-Hill Education. p. 333. ISBN 978-0-07-180720-3.
  7. ^ Vander's Human Physiology, The Mechanisms of Body Function.
  8. ^ "Physiology of the Hepatic Vascular System". Retrieved 2018-12-04.
  9. ^ a b E.R. Schiff; M.F. Sorrell; W.C. Maddrey, eds. (2007). Schiff's Diseases of the Liver, Tenth Edition. Lippincott William & Wilkins. ISBN 0-7817-6040-2.
  10. ^ M.J. Burns; S.L. Friedman; A.M. Larson (2009). "Acetaminophen (paracetamol) poisoning in adults: Pathophysiology, presentation, and diagnosis". In D.S. Basow (ed.). UpToDate. Waltham, MA: UpToDate.
  11. ^ "The liver ~ Medical student education – Tissupath". Retrieved 20 June 2018.

External linksEdit