A liver biopsy is a test that takes a sample of tissue from the liver for examination.
Most of the time, the test is done in the hospital. Before the test is done, you may be given a medicine to prevent pain or to calm you (sedative).
The biopsy may be done through the abdominal wall:
The procedure can also be done by inserting a needle into the jugular vein.
If you receive sedation for this test, you will need someone to drive you home.
Tell your health care provider about:
You must sign a consent form. Blood tests are sometimes done to test your blood's ability to clot. You will be told not eat or drink anything for the 8 hours before the test.
For infants and children:
The preparation needed for a child depends on the child's age and maturity. Your child's doctor will tell you what you can do to prepare your child for this test.
You will feel a stinging pain when the anesthetic is injected. The biopsy needle may feel like deep pressure and dull pain. Some people feel this pain in the shoulder.
The biopsy helps diagnose many liver diseases. The procedure also helps assess the stage (early, advanced) of liver disease. This is especially important in hepatitis C infection.
The biopsy also helps detect:
The liver tissue is normal.
This test also may be performed for:
Biopsy - liver; Percutaneous biopsy
Lomas DJ. The liver. In: Adam A, Dixon AK, eds. Grainger & Allison's Diagnostic Radiology: A Textbook of Medical Imaging. 5th ed. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone; 2008:chap 35.
Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:section IX.
Updated by: George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
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