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Liver Biopsy

During a liver biopsy, your health care provider puts a needle through your skin (percutaneous) and into your liver. He or she removes a small sample of liver tissue and sends it to a lab to be looked at.

Before your liver biopsy, ask your health care provider any questions you have.

Man lying on back on table. Two health care providers wearing surgical gowns, eye protection, and gloves are standing next to table. One health care provider is placing device on man's finger. Another health care provider is feeling man's abdomen.
Your health care provider will give you an ultrasound or CT scan of your lower chest and upper abdominal area to help find the best site for your biopsy.

Getting ready

  • Be sure to have any blood tests that your health care provider orders.

  • Stop taking aspirin and other medicines as directed 1 week before the biopsy.

  • Follow any directions you’re given for not eating or drinking before the biopsy.

  • Arrange for someone to drive you home after your biopsy.

  • Tell your provider if you are taking any blood-thinning medicines. This includes aspirin.

During the procedure

  • You will change into a hospital gown. You will lie on your back or your left side. Part of your body is draped.

  • Your health care provider checks your blood pressure, pulse, breathing, and temperature. 

  • Your provider may give you medicine through an IV (intravenous) line to help you relax. He or she will also put medicine on your skin around the biopsy site to numb it.

  • He or she puts a small needle through a tiny cut (incision) in your abdominal wall into the liver.

  • He or she will take out a small sample of liver tissue. While this is done, you will be told to hold your breath. The needle is taken out.

  • A health care provider places a bandage over the incision site. He or she may ask you to lie for a while on your right side. A pillow or special sandbag may be used to put pressure on the incision site.

  • You will be watched for a few hours after your biopsy. You can then go home if you have no pain or signs of bleeding.

After the procedure

Have someone drive you home after your liver biopsy. You may feel some pain near the biopsy site or in your right shoulder. This is a result of referral pain. Get plenty of rest. Avoid alcohol, heavy lifting, and exercise for a few days. Don't take aspirin. Follow your health care provider's advice.

Getting your results

Getting your biopsy results may take a few days. When the results are ready, your health care provider will discuss them with you.

When to call your doctor

Call your health care provider right away if you have any of these:

  • Severe pain near the biopsy site or in your abdomen or chest

  • Fainting or feeling lightheaded

  • Trouble breathing

  • Fever

  • Bleeding from the incision site

  • Rectal bleeding

  • Swollen abdomen

Online Medical Reviewer: Berry, Judith, PhD, APRN
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Online Medical Reviewer: Pierce-Smith, Daphne, RN, MSN, CCRC
Last Review Date: 3/10/2014
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