What’s in This Article

  • What is a liver biopsy?
  • Why do I need one?
  • What to expect during the procedure
  • Aftercare and results


What is a Liver Biopsy?
A liver biopsy is a medical test that is done to aid in the diagnosis of liver disease, to monitor existing liver disease and to track the success rate of treatment. A tissue sample is collected from the liver and then sent to a laboratory in order to help your doctor diagnose whether you have a liver disorder or liver disease.


Why Do I need one?
Your doctor will have made the decision to send you for a liver biopsy based on some of the following reasons. You may have had liver blood tests that have come back abnormal, or when an X-ray, an ultrasound, or CT scan shows a problem with your liver. Your doctor may also send you for a liver biopsy if you are showing symptoms of jaundice or liver disease. There are alternatives available such as imaging tests, however, these are not as accurate and do not replace the need for a liver biopsy.


What to expect during the procedure?
A liver biopsy is an invasive test. A physician at the hospital or outpatient clinic will perform the liver biopsy where a needle is inserted into the liver to collect a tissue sample. You will need an IV line placed in your arm so that you can be given medications if you need them. Your doctor may suggest a sedative to help you relax during the procedure. An ultrasound will be used to detect where your liver is, and the doctor will make a small incision and insert the needle which will only take a few seconds. Afterwards, you will need to lay in bed for a few hours before you can leave, and you may be sore in the area where the incision was made.


Aftercare and results
You will need someone to drive you home after the procedure and cannot drive or operate heavy machinery for eight hours after. There are rarely any complications, however, sometimes the liver biopsy can cause internal bleeding or bile leakage from the gallbladder or liver. If you experience a fever, chills, dizziness or pain where the biopsy was performed within 72 hours then you should consult your doctor or go to your nearest emergency room. Your results should be available within a week of the procedure depending on the turnaround time of your clinic.


Find out more about the basics of liver health with Dr. Tarek Hassanein, M.D.