Liver Biopsy

Liver Biopsy

What is a liver biopsy?
A small piece of the liver (vital organ that fights infection and helps digest food) is removed and examined for signs of damage or disease.

When is a liver biopsy performed?
When a liver problem is difficult to diagnose with blood tests or imaging, a liver biopsy is performed.

How is a liver biopsy performed?
There are three main types of liver biopsies used at outpatient facilities and hospitals.

  • Percutaneous liver biopsy: This is the most common technique for collecting a liver sample.  A hollow needle is inserted through the abdomen into the liver to remove a small piece of tissue.  This may be performed with the aid of radiographic imaging such as CT scan to guide the biopsy.
  • Transvenous liver biopsy: This method is used when a person’s blood clots slowly or when excess fluid is present in the abdomen.  A small incision is made in the neck and a specially designed hollow tube called a sheath is inserted into the jugular vein. The doctor threads the sheath down the jugular vein (along the side of the heart) and into one of the hepatic veins where the liver is located.
  • Laparoscopic liver biopsy: A tissue sample is obtained from a specific area or from multiple areas of the liver with special tools to pass through the incisions.

How long does it take to recover from a liver biopsy?
Most patients fully recover from a liver biopsy in 1 to 2 days. Patients should avoid intense activity, exercise, or heavy lifting during this time.