Liver Biopsy

A liver biopsy is a procedure in which a sample of liver tissue is removed and examined to test for hepatitis, fatty liver disease, cirrhosis and tumors. A small needle is inserted between two of the right lower ribs to remove a sample of liver tissue. The tissue sample is sent to the lab and viewed under a microscope to see if there are any liver problems. Test results are generally ready in 2 to 4 days. If tests are done to find infections, it may take several weeks.
A liver biopsy may be done to:

  • Find the cause of certain diseases
  • Find the cause of certain abnormal blood tests
  • See how much the liver is inflamed or scarred by hepatitis or other liver diseases
  • See if there are other liver conditions
  • Check the response to treatment for liver disease
  • See if a medicine is causing a toxic effect on the liver
  • Check the function of a transplanted liver
  • Find the cause of an unexplained and ongoing fever
  • Check a liver mass found on an X-ray, ultrasound, or CT scan.

A liver biopsy is often done by a radiologist using ultrasound or a CT scan to help guide the biopsy needle. A sedative (something to help make you relax) will be given first. The doctor will have you take a deep breath and then let the air out and hold your breath while the needle is inserted. It only takes a few seconds. As soon as the needle is removed you can breathe. The test generally takes 15-30 minutes.
After the biopsy is taken you will rest in bed and lie on your right side for 2-6 hours. Your heart rate, blood pressure, and respirations are monitored while you are resting.