During a liver biopsy, a thin needle is inserted through the skin between the two lower right side ribs to harvest a small piece of tissue for examination. This is performed under a microscope to find indications of liver damage or disease.
Liver biopsies are performed when:
- An abnormality is found during medical imaging
- Blood testing is inconclusive
- Determining the severity or stage of liver disease, developing a treatment plan, and determining if treatment is working
- Monitoring the liver after a transplant
- Determining if the liver is the cause of ongoing, unexplained fevers
- Diagnosing a problem that cannot otherwise be determined
Preparing for Your Liver Biopsy
Our staff will explain the procedure to you and answer any questions you might have prior to surgery. You may receive a physical examination, including blood and urine tests, to ensure you are in good health for the procedure.
Please make sure to bring a complete list of all medications and herbal supplements you are currently taking with you to your appointment.
Please let our staff know if you have any of the following conditions:
- Pregnant or suspect you are pregnant
- Allergic to medications, latex, tape, or anesthetics
- History of bleeding disorders or are taking a blood thinner, aspirin, or other medications that affect blood clotting
What to Expect
You will be asked to remove any jewelry or objects that interfere with the surgery as well as your clothing; you will be given a surgical gown to wear. A member of our staff will start an intravenous (IV) line in one of your arms.
The biopsy is performed with the patient lying on their back with the right arm above the head, or on the patient's left side. The liver will be located and marked at the location of the biopsy.
Ultrasound, MRI, or CT scan may be used to locate a specific spot in the liver. The skin over the liver will be cleansed with an antiseptic solution and a local anesthetic will then be injected. This may cause a brief stinging sensation.
You will be asked to hold your breath until the doctor inserts the biopsy needle into the liver. You will also be asked to lie quietly without moving. A needle will be introduced through the skin and into the liver very quickly.
It is common to feel pressure as the needle is pressed into the liver, or discomfort in the shoulder due to irritation of the adjacent phrenic nerve. The sample of liver tissue will be removed.
The biopsy needle will be withdrawn and firm pressure will be applied to the biopsy site until the bleeding has stopped.
A sterile bandage or dressing will be applied.
You may be taken to the recovery room for observation if your procedure was done in a procedure room or in the Radiology Department.
Once your blood pressure, pulse, and breathing are stable and you are alert, you may be taken to a hospital room or discharged to go home.
You will be instructed to avoid strenuous activity, such as heavy lifting for several days longer. You should not cough hard or strain for several hours after the procedure.
The biopsy site may be tender or sore for several days after the liver biopsy.
A liver biopsy is a routine procedure. Although complications related to a liver biopsy are rare, you should contact your doctor following the procedure if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Fever and/or chills
- Redness, swelling, warmth, or bleeding or other drainage from the biopsy site
- Increased pain around the biopsy site or elsewhere
- Shortness of breath and/or difficulty breathing
Your doctor may give you additional or alternate instructions after the procedure, depending on your situation.
Arrangements for a follow-up appointment to discuss the biopsy results with our staff will be made upon discharge.