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Liver Biopsy

What Affects the Test

Occasionally, a liver biopsy may not provide helpful results because not enough tissue is sampled to make a clear diagnosis.

What To Think About

  • Aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and alanine aminotransferase (ALT) are blood tests done to check liver function. Both ALT and AST levels show liver damage and may be done to help diagnose liver disease. A liver biopsy may be done when AST and ALT levels are very high and no other reason for high levels is found.
  • A liver biopsy should not be done on people who have bleeding or blood clotting problems, or certain types of infections.
  • A transvenous liver biopsy is another method that may be used. During this test, a radiologist inserts a thin tube (catheter) into a neck vein, which is guided to the liver. A sample can be taken through the catheter.
  • If a larger sample of liver tissue is needed, an open biopsy of the liver may be done at another time, using surgery or laparoscopy. A liver biopsy is sometimes done at the same time as another abdominal surgery. To learn more, see the topic Laparoscopy.

Other Works Consulted

  • Chernecky CC, Berger BJ, eds. (2004). Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures, 4th ed. Philadelphia: Saunders.

  • Fischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2004). Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 7th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

  • Pagana KD, Pagana TJ (2010). Mosby’s Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerMichel M. Murr, MD - General Surgery, Bariatric Surgery
Last RevisedDecember 13, 2011

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: December 13, 2011
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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