Liver biopsy

also called an Ultrasound guided liver biopsy

A common diagnostic procedure to check the liver.

What is a liver biopsy?

A liver biopsy is a procedure where a small sample of tissue is removed from your liver, for study under a microscope. Your consultant may recommend a liver biopsy if blood tests or scans indicate you might have a liver condition.

A liver biopsy can help determine the nature and severity of liver disease. On top of diagnosis, biopsy findings also help guide treatment decisions, and disease monitoring and management.

Need to know

  • What happens during a liver biopsy? icon plus

    The doctor will use an ultrasound to guide them to the best location to insert the biopsy needle.

    A local anaesthetic will be given into skin and tissue over a part of your liver. The biopsy needle will enter through the skin into your liver, and pushes in and out at a rapid pace. As the needle comes out it will bring with it a small sample of liver tissue. 

    If you have an increased risk of bleeding, a different method is used whereby a catheter (a very thin, hollow tube) is inserted into a vein in your neck or groin, after local anaesthetic. It is then guided to the veins in your liver. A small needle at the catheter's tip makes a tiny hole in the vein and collects a sample of liver tissue retained in the catheter. You may feel only mild pressure as the needle is pushed.

  • How to prepare for your biopsy icon plus

    You will usually be asked to have a blood test done shortly before the biopsy, to check how well your blood will clot. This is a precautionary measure to ensure that you are not likely to bleed following the biopsy.

    You may also be advised not to take any medicines that could affect blood clotting, such as aspirin and blood thinning medication, for one week before the biopsy.

    Other medication that you have been prescribed should be taken as per normal before the biopsy. However, your consultant will discuss this with you prior to the procedure.

  • After the biopsy icon plus

    You will need to lie on your side on a bed and be monitored for several hours to ensure that you have no bleeding. If the biopsy was done in the morning, you may be able to go home later in the day. Otherwise, you may need to remain overnight at the hospital.

    Complications from biopsies are uncommon. Pain, if any, is managed with painkillers. Avoid contact sports like rugby for a certain time in order to allow your liver to heal properly.

    Please seek medical advice if:

    • Bleeding occurs from the biopsy site
    • The biopsy site becomes red or swollen
    • You develop a fever
    • The biopsy site is still painful three days later and painkillers don't help.

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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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