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Liver Biopsy

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What Happens on the Day of a Liver Biopsy? continued...

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, which takes about 5 minutes:

  • 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 will clean and numb an area on your upper abdomen with a local anesthetic (pain-relieving medication). The doctor will then make a small incision on your upper abdomen and insert a needle into this incision to take a small sample of liver tissue for analysis.

After the procedure:

  • You will stay in a recovery room for up to 4 hours for observation.
  • You may feel minor pain or soreness at the biopsy site and 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 take acetaminophen (Tylenol) if needed.
  • Do not perform vigorous physical activity or heavy lifting for at least 24 hours and up to 1 week after the biopsy.
  • Your doctor will discuss the biopsy results with you several days after the procedure.

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 doctor 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.

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