Liver biopsy

Definition

A liver biopsy is a test that takes a sample of tissue from the liver for examination.

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:

Normal Results

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

Risks may include:


Review Date: 1/1/2019
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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