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Liver Biopsy

How It Is Done

A liver biopsy is done by a gastroenterologist, hepatologist, radiologist, or surgeon in a clinic or a hospital. A liver biopsy is often done by a radiologist using ultrasound or a CT scan to help guide the biopsy needle. When cirrhosis of the liver or a cancer is suspected, a liver biopsy may be done during a laparoscopy.

You will need to take off all or most of your clothes. You will be given a cloth or paper gown to use during the test.

Before the test, you may be given a sedative through a vein (IV) in your arm. The sedative will help you relax and remain still.

During the test

During the test, you will lie on your back with your right arm resting under or above your head and your head turned to your left. Your doctor may tap on your chest and belly to find your liver or he or she may use ultrasound.

Your doctor will mark a spot between two of your right lower ribs where the biopsy needle will be inserted camera.gif. The site will be cleaned with a special soap and draped with sterile towels. The doctor will give you a medicine (local anesthetic) to numb the area where the biopsy needle will be inserted.

You may be asked to take a deep breath, blow all the air out, and then hold your breath while the biopsy needle is being inserted and withdrawn. This will take only a few seconds. Holding your breath lowers the chance that the needle will go in your lung since the lungs are very close to the liver. It is important to remain still during the few seconds it takes for the doctor to collect the tissue sample. The doctor may take another tissue sample from the same spot, but from a different angle.

As soon as the doctor removes the needle, you can breathe normally. A bandage will be put on the puncture site. The test generally takes 15 to 30 minutes.

After the test

You will rest in bed and lie on your right side for 2 to 6 hours after the test. Your pulse, blood pressure, and temperature will be checked often after the biopsy.

You can go home if you have no problems after the test. You may eat your regular diet. But unless your doctor tells you it is okay, do not take aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines, blood thinners, or antiplatelet medicines for one week after the biopsy. You may do your regular activities, but do not do strenuous activities or heavy lifting until your doctor says it is safe.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 15, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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