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Liver biopsy

Biopsy - liver; Percutaneous liver biopsy; Needle biopsy of liver

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

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Liver biopsy

How the Test is Performed

Most of the time, the test is done in the hospital or specialized procedure unit. 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 your liver by moving it through 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:

Related Information

Liver disease
Cirrhosis
Hepatitis
Pulmonary tuberculosis
Alcoholic liver disease
Amebic liver abscess
Autoimmune hepatitis
Biliary atresia
Hepatitis D (Delta agent)
Hemochromatosis
Hepatitis C
Liver cancer - hepatocellular carcinoma
Hodgkin lymphoma
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
Primary biliary cirrhosis
Pyogenic liver abscess
Reye syndrome
Sclerosing cholangitis
Wilson disease

References

Holmes JA, Chung RT. Hepatitis C. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 80.

Martin P. Approach to the patient with liver disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 137.

Paradis V, Zucman-Rossi J. Cellular and molecular techniques. In: Burt AD, ed. MacSween's Pathology of the Liver. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2024:chap 2.

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Review Date: 1/31/2023  

Reviewed By: Michael M. Phillips, MD, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, The George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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