Liver Biopsy

The liver is the body’s largest organ and is found behind the ribs in the right upper abdomen. The liver works to make proteins, eliminate waste, and helps balance the metabolism and nutrition of the body. There are a number of conditions and diseases that can cause severe and even permanent damage to the liver if not caught and treated early. Some of these include infection, reactions to alcohol and drugs, hereditary conditions, tumors, and immune deficiency problems.

Assessing a Liver Condition

Following a complete medical history and physical exam, we will perform blood studies, also known as liver function tests (LFT), to learn about the overall health of the liver. Additional tests will performed if the LFT test produces abnormal results. In addition to these tests, a liver biopsy will be performed so your physician can determine an exact diagnosis and create a personalized treatment plan that will produce optimum results.

What is a liver biopsy?

A liver biopsy is where a small sample of tissue is taken from the liver to be examined under a microscope in a laboratory. This will provide your physician with vital information for determining the best course of treatment for your diagnosis.

What can I expect during the procedure?

We generally perform liver biopsies on an outpatient basis. We will give you a mild sedative before the procedure to help you relax. In some cases, an ultrasound or echo machine is used to help identify the best location to make a biopsy. Most often, though, your physician will perform a physical exam to determine the best location for the biopsy. Once in a comfortable position on your left side, we will clean the area the biopsy will be taken from and apply a local anesthetic gel to numb the skin and underlying tissue. Then your physician will insert a specially designed needle through the skin, advance it to the liver and remove a small sample of the liver’s tissue. Generally, the entire procedure takes only 15-20 minutes.

For procedure preparation instructions, please read our Liver Biopsy Instructions.

What can I expect following the procedure?

You will be kept in a recovery area for several hours following the procedure so we can monitor your heart rate and blood pressure. Patients might experience mild discomfort in the chest or shoulder area, but this is only temporary. Medication is available to help alleviate any discomfort. Prior to discharge, we will provide you with specific instructions on returning to your normal diet and activities. Generally, activity is restricted for approximately 24 hours following the procedure.

What risks are involved with a biopsy?

There are little to no risks involved with a liver biopsy, other than the mild discomfort mentioned above. Some rare complications include:

  • Internal bleeding
  • Leakage of bile from the liver or gallbladder

If these problems occur, they can often be remedied without surgery.

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