A liver biopsy is a test that takes a sample of tissue from the liver for examination.
Biopsy - liver; Percutaneous biopsy
How the Test is Performed
Most of the time, the test is done in the hospital. Before the test is done, you may be given a medicine to prevent pain or to calm you (sedative).
The biopsy may be done through the abdominal wall:
The procedure can also be done by inserting a needle into the jugular vein.
If you receive sedation for this test, you will need someone to drive you home.
How to Prepare for the Test
Tell your provider about:
You must sign a consent form. Blood tests are sometimes done to test your blood's ability to clot. You will be told not to eat or drink anything for the 8 hours before the test.
For infants and children:
The preparation needed for a child depends on the child's age and maturity. Your child's provider will tell you what you can do to prepare your child for this test.
How the Test will Feel
You will feel a stinging pain when the anesthetic is injected. The biopsy needle may feel like deep pressure and dull pain. Some people feel this pain in the shoulder.
Why the Test is Performed
The biopsy helps diagnose many liver diseases. The procedure also helps assess the stage (early, advanced) of liver disease. This is especially important in hepatitis B and C infection.
The biopsy also helps detect:
The liver tissue is normal.
What Abnormal Results Mean
The biopsy may reveal a number of liver diseases, including cirrhosis, hepatitis, or infections such as tuberculosis. It may also indicate cancer.
This test also may be performed for:
Risks may include:
Berk PD, Korenblat KM. Approach to the patient with jaundice or abnormal liver tests. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 147.
Lomas DJ, Mannelli L. The liver and spleen. In: Adam A, Dixon AK, Gillard JH, Schaefer-Prokop CM, eds. Grainger & Allison's Diagnostic Radiology: A Textbook of Medical Imaging. 6th ed. New York, NY: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2015:chap 31.
Wedemeyer H. Hepatitis C. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 80.
Review Date: 1/29/2017
Reviewed By: Michael M. Phillips, MD, Clinical Professor of Medicine, The George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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