Liver Biopsy

What is a liver biopsy?

Live biopsy is a procedure in which a doctor uses a special needle to remove a small piece of liver so it can be examined with a microscope. This is done to check for signs of damage or to diagnose the cause of liver damage.

When is a liver biopsy performed?

A liver biopsy may be performed for several reasons. The most common reasons are to determine the degree of liver damage you have, which will help the doctor decide what types of treatment you will need. Other reasons for a liver biopsy is to determine the cause of an abnormal blood test or x-ray test.


How do I prepare for a liver biopsy?

Before you have a liver biopsy, you should discuss the following with your doctor:

  • medications you are taking
  • your doctor may require blood work or X-rays before your biopsy
  • you may be asked not to eat or drink several hours before your biopsy
  • you may be asked to sign a concent form

Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding the need for the test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results will mean.

Before the procedure you can expect

  • you will need a driver on the day of the procedure
  • you may have an ultrasound performed during the procedure to find the best place to do the biopsy
  • to sign a consent form
  • you will need to lie flat for the procedure as you'll likely be given an IV in your arm

How is a liver biopsy performed?

There are several ways to do a liver biopsy. The most common way is to use a special needle through a small incision in the skin along the abdomen. You may have an ultrasound performed during the procedure to find the best place to do the biopsy.

During the procedure, you will be asked to lie flat on your back with your right hand resting above your head. Your blood pressure, pulse, and oxygen levels will be monitored before, during, and after the procedure.

An anesthetic is applied to the biopsy site with a small needle. A small incision will be made between your ribs and the biopsy needle will be inserted. You may be asked to exhale, or hold your breath while the needle is inserted. More than one sample is sometimes needed for good test results.

What should I expect after my liver biopsy?

  • You will be asked to lie on your right side for up to 2-hours after the procedure.
  • You will be monitored for several hours (up to 6-hours) after the procedure.
  • You will have a dressing placed on the biopsy site.
  • You may experience some pain at the incision site.
  • Most people make a full recovery within 1-2 days.
  • Your doctor will discuss specific instructions with you and tell you how long it will be before the test results return.

Liver biopsy risks

A liver biopsy generally is very safe, but with any type of biopsy procedure there is risk.

  • Pain at the site of the biopsy
  • Bleeding from the liver
  • Puncturing of other organs, if something goes wrong when the needle is inserted
  • Very rarely, death (1 in 10,000 to 1 in 12, 000)

After your liver biopsy

Call your doctor immediately if you have:

  • A fever higher than 100F
  • Severe belly pain
  • More redness or tenderness in your belly
  • Blood in your urine
  • Bleeding or a lot of drainage from the site

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