Liver Biopsy

What is Liver Biopsy?

There are many causes of liver disease and abnormal liver blood tests. A liver biopsy is often helpful to distinguish among various conditions. In so doing, appropriate treatment can be initiated. A liver biopsy may also help us stage the degree of involvement, particularly in chronic viral hepatitis.

A liver biopsy allows the doctor to obtain a sample of the liver for microscopic analysis. It is generally performed on an outpatient basis, and the procedure itself may only take about 15 minutes altogether. A portable ultrasound machine may be used to select the best spot for biopsy. The patient is lying on their back. The skin is scrubbed with an antibiotic swab, and local anesthesia will numb the skin and underlying tissue. A special thin needle is passed into the liver to obtain the specimen.

Following the biopsy, you will be taken to the recovery unit for observation. You will be lying on your right side for several hours to provide compression, and continued bed rest for an additional two hours. Blood pressure and pulse will be checked frequently. There may be some discomfort at the biopsy site and this may also radiate to the shoulder. This generally resolves in a short period of time. A blood count is checked prior to discharge. If normal, you would be ready to go home.

Risks / Complications:

Complications are fortunately rare. Aside from discomfort as noted, bleeding can occur. The liver is a highly vascular organ, rich in blood supply. Any bleeding should be limited, and the need for a blood transfusion is very unusual. Nicking of an organ other than the liver has been described. Great care is taken to avoid this, and ultrasound certainly reduced the risk.

At Home:

Your diet may be resumed. You will be asked to restrict vigorous physical activity for several days after the biopsy. You should avoid aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents such as ibuprofen or naproxen for a brief time. The results of the biopsy should be available in 3 to 5 days.