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Liver Biopsy

Technician preparing woman for CT scan.
Your health care provider will give you an ultrasound or CT scan of your lower chest and upper abdominal area to help find the best site for your biopsy.

A liver biopsy is when a small piece of liver tissue is removed. The tissue is sent to a lab. It is looked at with a microscope. To do the biopsy, your healthcare provider puts a needle through your skin and into your liver. In some cases, the biopsy is done by moving a thin tube through a vein into the liver area. This method is less common.

Getting ready

Before your biopsy:

  • Have blood tests as directed.

  • Follow instructions for not eating or drinking before the biopsy.

  • Arrange for someone to drive you home after your biopsy.

  • Talk with your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.

Also, tell your provider about all of the medicines, drugs, and supplements you take. This includes:

  • Medicines that thin the blood and prevent blood clots, such as warfarin.

  • Other medicines that thin the blood. This includes aspirin. It also includes non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen.

  • Medicines for heart conditions

  • Over-the-counter medicines

  • All prescription medicines

  • Illegal drugs

  • Herbs, vitamins, and other supplements

Stop taking aspirin and NSAIDS 1 week before the biopsy. Ask what other medicines you may need to stop.

During the procedure

  • You will change into a hospital gown. You will lie on your back or your left side. Part of your body is draped.

  • Your healthcare provider checks your blood pressure, pulse, breathing, and temperature. 

  • Your provider may give you medicine through an IV (intravenous) line to help you relax. He or she will also put medicine on your skin around the biopsy site to numb it.

  • He or she puts a small needle through a tiny cut (incision) in your belly (abdominal) wall into the liver.

  • He or she will take out a small sample of liver tissue. You will be told to hold your breath while this is done. The needle is taken out.

  • A healthcare provider places a bandage over the incision site. He or she may ask you to lie on your right side for a while. A pillow or special sandbag may be used to put pressure on the incision site.

  • You will be watched for a few hours after your biopsy. You can then go home if you are stable and comfortable and you have no signs of bleeding.

After the procedure

Have someone drive you home after your liver biopsy. You may feel some pain near the biopsy site or in your right shoulder. This shoulder pain is called referred pain.

When you are home:

  • Get plenty of rest.

  • Don't drink alcohol.

  • Don’t lift anything more than 15 to 20 pounds for a week.

  • Don’t exercise for 5 to 7 days.

  • Don't take aspirin.

  • Ask your provider when you can start taking other blood-thinning medicines as needed.

  • Follow any other directions from your healthcare provider.

Getting your results

Your biopsy results may take a few days. When the results are ready, your healthcare provider will discuss them with you.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these:

  • Severe pain near the biopsy site or in your belly or chest

  • Fainting or feeling lightheaded

  • Trouble breathing

  • A fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Feeling weak

  • Sweating

  • Bleeding from the incision site

  • Blood in your stool or black, tarry stools

  • Swollen belly

Online Medical Reviewer: Jen Lehrer MD
Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2019
© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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