- Liver Biopsy Center
- Take the Liver Disease Quiz
- Hepatitis Slideshow Pictures
- Take the Alcohol Quiz
- Find a local Gastroenterologist in your town
What is a Liver Biopsy?
A liver biopsy is a procedure in which a small needle is inserted into the liver to collect a tissue sample. This is performed as an office or outpatient procedure or during surgery. The tissue is then analyzed in a laboratory to help doctors diagnose a variety of disorders and diseases in the liver. A liver biopsy is most often performed to help identify the cause of:
Is Liver Biopsy Safe?
In most instances, there are no complications in obtaining a liver biopsy. However, rarely internal bleeding may occur, as well as a leak of bile from the liver or gallbladder.
How Do I Prepare for a Liver Biopsy?
When preparing for a liver biopsy, there are several things to keep in mind.
- Tell your doctor if you're pregnant, have a lung or heart condition, are allergic to any medications, or have bleeding problems.
- Tell your doctor if you are taking blood-thinning medications such as Coumadin, Plavix, or Persantine. Your doctor may prescribe an alternate method for thinning your blood before the procedure.
- For the week before the procedure, do not take aspirin, products containing aspirin, or anti-inflammatory drugs (such as ibuprofen, Advil, Motrin, Naprosyn, or Indocin) unless otherwise advised by your doctor.
Do not discontinue any medication without first consulting with your primary or referring doctor.
What Happens on the Day of a Liver Biopsy?
Laboratory tests will be performed on the day of a liver biopsy or 2-3 days before the procedure, as directed by your doctor. These tests may include a blood count, a platelet count, and a measurement of your blood's ability to clot.
Before the procedure:
- A doctor will explain the biopsy procedure in detail, including possible complications and answer any questions you may have.
During the procedure:
- You will be asked to wear a hospital gown.
- You will lie on your back, with your right elbow out to the side and your right hand under your head. It is important that you remain as still as possible during the procedure.
- An ultrasound may be used to mark the location of your liver.
- You may receive a small dose of a sedative just prior to the procedure.
- The doctor cleans and numbs an area on your upper abdomen with a local anesthetic (pain-relieving medication). The doctor then makes a small incision on your upper abdomen and inserts a needle into this incision to take a small sample of liver tissue for analysis.
- The procedure takes about 5 minutes.
After the procedure:
- You will stay in a recovery room for up to 4 hours for observation.
- You may feel minor discomfort or a dull pain in your shoulders or back. If necessary, a pain medication will be prescribed for you.
- Do not drive or operate machinery for at least eight hours after the procedure.
- Avoid taking aspirin, products containing aspirin, or anti-inflammatory drugs (such as ibuprofen, Advil, Naprosyn, Indocin, or Motrin) for one week after the procedure. You may takeacetaminophen (Tylenol) if needed.
- Do not perform vigorous physical activity for at least 24 hours after the biopsy.
- Your doctor will discuss the biopsy results with you several days after the procedure.
What other methods of liver biopsy are available?
Two other methods of liver biopsy may also be available: laparoscopic and transvenous.
During a laparoscopic biopsy, a laparoscope (a thin lighted tube with a camera attached) is inserted through an incision in the abdomen. The laparoscope sends images of the liver to a monitor that the physician watches while using instruments to remove tissue samples from one or more parts of the liver. This type of biopsy may be used when tissue samples are needed from specific parts of the liver.
A transvenous biopsy may be done when patients have blood-clotting problems or fluid in the abdomen. The physician inserts a tube called a catheter into a vein in the neck and guides it to the liver. A biopsy needle is placed into the catheter and then into the liver to obtain a sample.
Warning About Liver Biopsy
If you have a fever; difficulty breathing; chills; dizziness; or tenderness or severe pain at the site of a liver biopsy or in the chest, shoulder, or abdomen within 72 hours after the procedure, please call your doctor or go to the nearest emergency room.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse.
Reviewed by Venkat Mohan, MD on March 01, 2010
Top Liver Biopsy Related Articles
Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency (Symptoms, Treatment, Life Expectancy)
Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (AATD) is an inherited disorder caused by mutations in the SERPINA1 gene. People with the condition are at risk for developing serious lung and liver disease. Symptoms and signs of lung disease caused by this condition include:
The earliest symptoms and signs of lung disease usually develop between 20 and 50 years of age, and are
- The reduced ability to exercise
- Shortness of breath (dyspnea) following mild activity
Other symptoms and signs of alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency are:
- Rapid heartbeat when going from sitting to standing
- Recurring respiratory infections
- Unintentional weight loss
Lung disease: People with this condition often develop emphysema, with symptoms of a hacking cough, barrel-shaped chest, and difficulty breathing. If you have this condition and smoke or are exposed to tobacco smoke, it accelerates the appearance of emphysema symptoms and lung damage.
Liver disease: Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency also cause liver disease in some people with the condition, that include liver cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, an abnormally large liver (hepatomegaly), liver failure, and hepatitis. Liver damage from alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency causes symptom of a swollen abdomen, swollen legs or feet, and jaundice.
Treatment of AATD depends upon the severity of symptoms. FDA approved drug for AATD is an orphan product called alpha-1-proteinase inhibitor (human), sold under the brand name "Prolastin."
AmyloidosisAmyloidosis is a group of diseases resulting from abnormal deposition of certain proteins (amyloids) in various bodily areas. The amyloid proteins may either be deposited in one particular area of the body (localized amyloidosis) or they may be deposited throughout the body (systemic amyloidosis). There are three types of systemic amyloidosis: primary (AL), secondary (AA), and familial (ATTR). Primary amyloidosis is not associated with any other diseases and is considered a disease entity of its own. Secondary amyloidosis occurs as a result of another illness. Familial Mediterranean Fever is a form of familial (inherited) amyloidosis. Amyloidosis treatment involves treating the underlying illness and correcting organ failure.
Antimitochondrial AntibodiesAntimitochondrial antibodies (AMA) are autoantibodies in the blood that react with the inner lining of mitochondria. AMA are detectable in the serum in 95%-98% of patients with primary biliary cirrhosis. So, AMA are tremendously important as a diagnostic marker in patients with primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC).
Blood TransfusionDuring a blood transfusion, blood or blood products are transferred from one person to another. There are two types of transfusions, autologous (your own blood), and donor blood (someone else's blood). There are four blood types: A; B; C; and O.
In addition, each person's blood is either Rh-positive or Rh-negative. It is important to know what to expect before, during, and after a blood transfusion, and the risks, side effecs, or complications of blood transfusions.
CT Scan (Computerized Tomography)A CT scan is an X-ray procedure that combines many X-ray images with the aid of a computer to generate cross-sectional and three-dimensional images of internal organs and structures of the body. A CT scan is a low-risk procedure. Contrast material may be injected into a vein or the spinal fluid to enhance the scan.
Cirrhosis (Liver)Cirrhosis of the liver refers to a disease in which normal liver cells are replaced by scar tissue caused by alcohol and viral hepatitis B and C. This disease leads to abnormalities in the liver's ability to handle toxins and blood flow, causing internal bleeding, kidney failure, mental confusion, coma, body fluid accumulation, and frequent infections.
Symptoms include yellowing of the skin (jaundice), itching, and fatigue.
The prognosis is good for some people with cirrhosis of the liver, and the survival can be up to 12 years; however the life expectancy is about 6 months to 2 years for people with severe cirrhosis with major complications.
Hemochromatosis (Iron Overload)
Hereditary hemochromatosis (iron overload) is an inherited disorder in which there is excessive accumulation of iron in the body. Individuals may have no symptoms or signs, or they can have severe symptoms and signs of iron overload. The most effective treatment for hemochromatosis is therapeutic phlebotomy.
Liver (Anatomy and Function)The liver is the largest gland and organ in the body. There are a variety of liver diseases caused by liver inflammation, scarring of the liver, infection of the liver, gallstones, cancer, toxins, genetic diseases, and blood flow problems. Symptoms of liver disease generally do not occur until the liver disease is advanced. Some symptoms of liver disease include jaundice, nausea and vomiting, easy bruising, bleeding excessively, fatigue, weakness, weight loss, shortness of breath, leg swelling, impotence, and confusion. Treatment of diseases of the liver depends on the cause.
Liver Blood TestsAn initial step in detecting liver damage is a simple blood test to determine the presence of certain liver enzymes in the blood. Under normal circumstances, these enzymes reside within the cells of the liver. But when the liver is injured, these enzymes are spilled into the blood stream, and can lead to diseases like fatty liver, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and hepatitis. Several medications also can increase liver enzyme test results.
Liver Disease QuizWhat is liver disease? Take the Liver Disease Quiz and test your knowledge about this organ and its function.
Liver PictureFront View of the Liver. The liver is a large, meaty organ that sits on the right side of the belly. See a picture of the Liver and learn more about the health topic.
UltrasoundUltrasound (and ultrasonography) is imaging of the body used in the medical diagnosis and screening of diseases and conditions such as:
- heart valve irregularities,
- carotid artery disease,
- heart disease,
- kidney stones,
- liver disease,
- diseases of the female reproductive, and
- diseases of the male reproductive organs.