Liver Biopsy: Uses , Risk, Preparation

Overview

Liver biopsy is a medical procedure in which a small amount of liver tissue is collected so that it can be examined under a microscope to help diagnose diseases in the liver. It may be ordered if blood or imaging tests suggest a potential liver problem. Doctors may also use a liver biopsy to determine the severity of liver disease, based on which, the best treatment option can be adopted.

Liver biopsy can be divided into three types:

  • Percutaneous biopsy (the most common type): Doctors will insert a thin needle through your abdomen into the liver and remove a small piece of tissue.
  • Transjugular biopsy: After a small incision is made at the neck, your doctor will insert a thin flexible tube through the neck’s jugular vein and into the liver.
  • Laparoscopic biopsy: This type involves inserting a thin tube with a tiny video camera attached in order to look inside the body.

Uses

A liver biopsy is typically ordered to:

  • Diagnose a liver problem that can’t be otherwise identified
  • Obtain a sample of tissue from an abnormality found by an imaging study
  • Determine the severity of liver disease – a process called staging
  • Help develop treatment plans based on the liver’s condition
  • Determine how well treatment for liver disease is working
  • Monitor the liver after a liver transplant

It is also done to help diagnose and stage certain liver disease such as:

  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Chronic hepatitis B or C
  • Autoimmune hepatitis
  • Alcoholic liver disease
  • Primary biliary cirrhosis
  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis
  • Hemochromatosis
  • Wilson’s disease

Risks

Although a liver biopsy is safe in most cases, complications also exist, including:

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Accidental injury to a nearby organ

A transjugular liver biopsy may cause other rare complications such as:

  • Collection of blood (hematoma) in the neck
  • Temporary problems with the facial nerves
  • Temporary voice problems
  • Puncture of the lung

Preparation

To get prepared for a liver biopsy, you may need to do the following things.

Talking with a health care provider

Before your liver biopsy, you should ask your health care provider about medical conditions and all prescribed and over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements you take. These include:

Fasting before the procedure

You will be asked not to eat or drink for six to eight hours before the procedure though some people can have a light breakfast.

Undergoing blood tests

A blood test used to check your blood clots is needed before a liver biopsy. Based on that result, the doctor will determine whether he or she should give you medication so that the risk of bleeding can be reduced.

Preparing for recovery

Since you may receive a sedative before the procedure, you should arrange for someone to drive you home after it and have someone to check on you during the first night. This can help prevent complications from developing.

After a liver biopsy

After a liver biopsy, you can expect:

  • Soreness around the biopsy or incision site for about a week
  • Full recovery in 1 to 2 days
  • To avoid intense activity, exercise and lifting more than 10 to 15 pounds for one week
  • A member of the health care team to review the discharge instructions with the person

If you have any of the following symptoms, seek immediate medical attention:

  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Increasing abdominal pain
  • Dizziness
  • Bleeding from the incision or biopsy site
  • Abdominal swelling or bloating
  • Fever
  • Swelling or redness at the incision or biopsy site
  • Nausea or vomiting

Keyword: liver biopsy.

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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.