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Liver Biopsy

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A liver biopsy is a procedure in which a small needle is inserted into the liver to collect a tissue sample. 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:

  • Persistent abnormal liver blood tests (liver enzymes)
  • Unexplained yellowing of the skin (jaundice)
  • A liver abnormality found on ultrasound, CT scan, or nuclear scan
  • Unexplained enlargement of the liver

A liver biopsy can also be used to estimate the degree of liver damage and determine the best treatment for the damage or disease.

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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. There is a slight risk of a pneumothorax, also called a collapsed lung, if the biopsy needle makes a hole in the chest wall causing air to enter.

How Do I Prepare for a Liver Biopsy?

When preparing for a liver biopsy, you should:

  • 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.
  • Talk with your doctor about the procedure.
  • Have any necessary blood tests done
  • Find out how long before the procedure you'll need to stop eating.
  • Arrange for a ride home after 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.

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