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Liver Biopsy

Technician preparing woman for CT scan.
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.
During a liver biopsy, your healthcare provider puts a needle through your skin and into your liver. He or she removes a small sample of liver tissue and sends it to a lab to be looked at. In some cases, the biopsy is done by moving a catheter through a vein into the liver area. This method is less common.

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

Getting ready

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

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

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

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

  • Tell your provider about all of the medicines you are taking. Ask if you should stop taking any of them. This includes:

    • Blood-thinning medicines. This includes aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen. It also includes medicines that prevent blood clots, such as warfarin.

    • Medicines for heart conditions

    • Over-the-counter medicines

    • All prescription medicines

    • Street drugs

    • Herbs, vitamins, and other supplements

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 belly (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 shoulder pain is called referred pain.

When you are home:

  • Get plenty of rest

  • Avoid alcohol

  • Don’t lift anything more than 15 to 20 pounds for a week

  • Don’t exercise for 5 to 7 days

  • Don't take aspirin

  • Ask your provider when you should start taking any other blood-thinning medicines

  • Follow any other directions from your healthcare provider

Getting your results

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

When to call your provider

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

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

  • Fainting or feeling lightheaded

  • Trouble breathing

  • A fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Feeling weak

  • Sweating

  • Bleeding from the incision site

  • Blood in your stool or black, tarry stools

  • Swollen belly

Online Medical Reviewer: Fraser, Marianne, MSN, RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Image reviewed by StayWell art team.
Online Medical Reviewer: Lehrer, Jenifer, MD
Last Review Date: 7/1/2016
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