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Liver Biopsy

A liver biopsy is a procedure in which your physician takes a tissue sample from your liver and sends it to a pathology lab. There, a pathologist examines the tissue to look for signs of damage or disease.

Liver Biopsy: Why It’s Performed

Your doctor may recommend a liver biopsy in order to accurately diagnose a liver condition. A biopsy can diagnose conditions including:

Types of Liver Biopsy

There are three methods of performing a liver biopsy:

  • Percutaneous (needle) biopsy. You receive a local anesthetic, so you are awake for the procedure but feel no pain. Your doctor inserts a biopsy needle into your liver to obtain a tissue sample. This is the most common form of liver biopsy.
  • Transvenous biopsy. This biopsy is done through a vein on your neck. You receive a local anesthetic, and then your doctor makes an incision into a vein on one side of your neck. He or she inserts a specially designed tube called a sheath through the vein down to the liver and removes tissue samples.

Depending on your condition and the type of biopsy procedure, you will either need to stay overnight in the hospital or you will be discharged that day.

Liver Biopsy: Recovery

After your biopsy, you will need to avoid strenuous activities for a week or longer. You can take a pain reliever for soreness, but avoid medications such as aspirin that may increase your chance of bleeding. Your doctor will discuss any specific discharge instructions with you before you leave the hospital.

Call your doctor if you experience:

  • Fever
  • Redness, swelling, warmth, bleeding or other drainage from the biopsy site
  • Increased pain around the  biopsy site
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing