Thumbnail image of: Liver, Gallbladder, and Pancreas: Illustration

Liver Biopsy

What is a liver biopsy?

A liver biopsy is a procedure done to remove a sample of liver tissue for examination under a microscope.

When is it used?

This procedure is used to test for liver diseases such as cirrhosis, hepatitis, and tumors. It is also used to check the progress of treatment in diseases such as chronic hepatitis.

How do I prepare for this procedure?

  • Plan for your care and find someone to give you a ride home after the procedure.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if you have any food, medicine, or other allergies such as latex.
  • Tell your provider if you have had kidney problems or an allergy to chemicals, such as contrast dye. Contrast dye is used for some scans.
  • You may or may not need to take your regular medicines the day of the procedure. Tell your healthcare provider about all medicines and supplements that you take. Some products may increase your risk of side effects. Ask your healthcare provider if you need to avoid taking any medicine or supplements before the procedure.
  • Follow any other instructions your healthcare provider gives you.
  • Ask any questions you have before the procedure. You should understand what your healthcare provider is going to do. You have the right to make decisions about your healthcare and to give permission for any tests or procedures.

What happens during the procedure?

You will be given a local anesthetic to numb the area. Your provider may make a small cut in your belly and insert a thin needle into your liver. Sometimes a liver biopsy is done by inserting a needle through a neck vein and down into the liver. A sample of liver tissue is removed and examined under a microscope in a lab.

Usually the procedure is done with a CT or ultrasound scan to help guide the needle. It might also be done during a surgical procedure while you are asleep.

What happens after the procedure?

After the biopsy, you may need to lie on your right side for several hours and then on your back for a while longer to prevent or decrease bleeding. Your blood pressure, pulse, and breathing are monitored to watch for complications.

Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions. Ask your healthcare provider:

  • How and when you will hear your test results
  • How long it will take to recover
  • If there are activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
  • How to take care of yourself at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

What are the risks of this procedure?

Every procedure or treatment has risks. Some possible risks of this procedure include:

  • You may have problems with anesthesia.
  • You may have infection or bleeding.
  • Other parts of your body may be injured during the procedure.

Ask your healthcare provider how these risks apply to you. Be sure to discuss any other questions or concerns that you may have.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2015-02-03
Last reviewed: 2014-03-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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