Liver (Anatomy and Function) (cont.)

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What is a liver biopsy?

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Most often, diseases of the liver can be diagnosed by history, physical examination, and blood tests. On occasion, should the diagnosis be unclear, a liver biopsy may be necessary.

Using a very thin needle, a gastroenterologist or hepatologist (two types of liver specialists) or an interventional radiologist will insert a very fine needle through the skin and into the liver, to retrieve a small bit of tissue. This can then be examined under the microscope by a pathologist to help make the diagnosis. This procedure is done under sterile conditions to prevent infection, and a local anesthetic is injected into the skin to decrease the potential for pain.

If there is concern about only one area of the liver, instead of a disease that would affect the whole organ, an ultrasound may be used to help guide the needle into the proper position.

Can diseases of the liver be prevented?

  • Moderate alcohol consumption to decrease the risk of the most common cause of liver disease in North America.
  • The risk of contracting hepatitis B and hepatitis C can be decreased by minimizing exposure to body fluids.
  • As mentioned previously, vaccinations are available for hepatitis A and B.
  • Maintain a healthy weight and eat a balanced diet to decrease the risk of developing fatty liver disease.

REFERENCE: Longo DL, Kasper DL, et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 18th edition. McGraw Hill Professional, 2011.


Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/16/2014

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Liver - Type of Disease and Treatments Question: Please share the type of liver disease you have, and any treatments or lifestyle changes you have made that have been effective for liver disease.
Liver - Symptoms of Disease Question: What symptoms did you experience with liver disease?
Liver - Biopsy Question: Please share your experience with liver biopsy.
Liver - Infection Question: What type of infection affected your liver? Please share your symptoms and treatments.
Liver - Medications Question: What medications caused inflammation of the liver? What was the treatment?
Liver - Hepatitis Question: What type of hepatitis do you have? What were your symptoms? Do you know how you contracted it and what treatments have you undergone?

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