Reasons to Perform Liver Biopsy
• Unexplained elevated liver tests
• Large or swollen liver
• Fatty liver
• Hepatitis B or C
• Chronic liver diseases
• Monitoring after liver transplantation

Liver Biopsy

 

 

 

Patient Information on Liver Biopsy

 

General Overview

A liver biopsy is a procedure that involves obtaining a small piece of liver tissue, which is then analyzed in the laboratory. Liver biopsy may be recommended to diagnose a problem or determine the severity of liver disease. Looking at liver tissue itself is the best way to determine whether the liver is healthy or what is causing it to be damaged.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens during a liver biopsy?

Liver biopsies are done in the hospital. During the liver biopsy you will lie on your back with your right hand behind your head. The doctor examines the lower right side of your chest and abdomen to find the best area for the biopsy. An ultrasound is often used in this process. The area is then cleaned and numbed with lidocaine. This stings briefly. A tiny cut is then made in your skin, but you should not feel it.
The doctor passes the biopsy needle quickly into and out of the liver through the small cut. You will be asked to hold your breath for five to 10 seconds during the biopsy. Because you will need to cooperate during the exam, you will not be given medications to induce sleep. You may feel pressure, a pulling sensation, a pinch, or a dull pain. Finally, a band-aid is placed over the cut. No stitches are needed. The entire procedure takes about 20 minutes.

What happens after a liver biopsy?

You will lie on your right side for up to two hours, and then be carefully monitored during the next four to six hours. You will stay in bed during this time and a nurse will check your pulse and blood pressure often. You can expect a little soreness at the incision site and possibly some pain in your right shoulder.
Like any procedure, liver biopsy does have some risks, such as puncture of the lung or gallbladder, infection, bleeding, and pain, but these complications are rare. If a problem occurs, you will have to stay in the hospital. If there are no problems, you can go home six hours after the test. You will not be allowed to leave alone. An adult must take you home. You may not drive yourself.

What happens after I go home?

For 72 hours after a liver biopsy you will be instructed to avoid strenuous exercise, sports, or lifting of any objects over 5 pounds. Otherwise, you can return to your normal activities the next day.
You should call your doctor with any concerns, including: severe pain at the biopsy site or shoulder, shortness of breath, chest pain, bleeding from the biopsy site, fever (temperature greater than 100.4º F or 38º C), abdominal pain, weakness, sweating, or heart palpitations.
You should avoid blood thinning medications for several days. Your physician may recommend that you take Tylenol for pain, but you must not take aspirin or ibuprofen for the first week after surgery. These medicines decrease blood clotting, which is crucial for healing.
The biopsy report is usually available within a few days to a week after the biopsy. Patients usually have a follow-up appointment to discuss the results of the biopsy and what treatment (if any) is needed