Biopsy - Liver

This procedure involves the removal of a sample of liver tissue to check for conditions involving the liver.

This procedure involves the removal of a sample of liver tissue to check for conditions involving the liver.

A liver biopsy is the removal of a sample of liver tissue to check for conditions involving the liver. Your healthcare provider may recommend a liver biopsy to evaluate the stage of liver disease (such as with hepatitis C infection) or to diagnose:

  • Cancer
  • Other liver infections besides hepatitis C
  • The reason for high liver enzymes in the blood, which can indicate inflammation of the liver or damage to liver cells.
  • The reason for unexplained liver enlargement

There are non-invasive tests other than liver biopsy that answer some of the same questions. However, while they are non-invasive, they are not as accurate as a liver biopsy.

Prior to having a liver biopsy, tell your healthcare provider about any medications you are taking (including over-the-counter medications and supplements). Ask about specific instructions to follow before and after the procedure. These include:

  • Medications you should not take before the procedure, such as blood thinners
  • Regular medications you should continue to take on the day of your procedure
  • How many hours you should stop eating and drinking before the procedure
  • Activities you should avoid for a couple of weeks after the biopsy

A liver biopsy is done in a hospital operating room with medication to help you relax. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Prior to the biopsy, ultrasounds or other imaging procedures may be done to determine the best place to insert the needle.
  • During the biopsy, you will be lying on your back with your right arm up and your hand under your head. You will need to take a deep breath and hold it while the biopsy is being performed. The area will be numbed, but you will likely feel some pressure and discomfort during the procedure.
  • It is important you lie still and do not move during the biopsy.

If you receive sedation for the procedure, you will need someone to drive you home.

What should I ask my healthcare provider before having a liver biopsy?

  • What is the reason for the procedure? Since there are alternatives to the procedure that do not involve a needle biopsy or surgery, why should I have a biopsy?
  • Do I need to fast before the procedure and, if so, for how long? Is there any other special preparation for the procedure? (If so, get clear instructions on what you need to do.)
  • What kind of sedation will I have? What are the possible side effects?
  • How many liver biopsies have you done and what is your complication rate?
  • What are the possible complications to the procedure?
  • How will I feel after the procedure, and how will I have to modify my activity? Do I need to arrange for help at home?

After your procedure, it is important to know what you had done, what medication was given and what symptoms you should report to your healthcare provider. Understand all home care instructions (including medications and side effects) and follow-up plans.


Also known as:

Liver Biopsy
Biopsy - Liver
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