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Understanding Liver Biopsy

Image of the internal organs including the lungs, liver, gallbladder, small intestine and large intestine

A liver biopsy is a special procedure that’s safe and quick. It can help your doctor assess the health of the liver.

Who Needs a Liver Biopsy?

A liver biopsy may be done if you have:

  • Symptoms of a liver problem, such as jaundice (yellowing skin and eyes or dark urine), due to infection, scarring, or damage from medications

  • Abnormal liver imaging or blood tests

  • A chronic liver condition

What a Liver Biopsy Can Do

A liver biopsy helps your doctor diagnose a liver problem, such as cirrhosis or a fatty liver by looking at your liver cells under the microscope. It also aids him or her in assessing the cause and severity of your liver problem.

Images of liver with cirrhosis and fatty liver

Possible Risks and Complications

  • Infection

  • Internal bleeding from the liver

  • Damage to organs near the liver (lungs, gallbladder, or intestines)

  • Need for a second liver biopsy if not enough liver tissue was obtained the first time

Online Medical Reviewer: Berry, Judith, PhD, APRN
Online Medical Reviewer: newMentor board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 3/7/2013
© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.