- Take the Liver Disease Quiz
- A Visual Guide to Hepatitis Slideshow
- Take the Alcohol Quiz
- Patient Comments: Liver - Type of Disease and Treatments
- Patient Comments: Liver - Medications
- Patient Comments: Liver - Hepatitis
- Find a local Doctor in your town
- Facts about the liver
- What is the function of the liver?
- What are symptoms of liver diseases?
- What does the liver look like, and where is it located in the body?
- Liver disease causes (fatty liver, cirrhosis, hepatitis, and infections)
- Liver disease causes (medications, toxins, genetics, cancer, and others)
- What kind of doctor treats liver disease?
- How is an examination of the liver performed?
- What is a liver biopsy?
- Can diseases of the liver be prevented?
What is a liver biopsy?
Most often, diseases of the liver can be diagnosed by history, physical examination, and blood tests. On occasion, should the diagnosis be unclear or to assess the degree of damage to the liver, 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.
Longo DL, Kasper DL, et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 18th edition. McGraw Hill Professional, 2015.