A liver biopsy is a safe and quick procedure that takes around five minutes to complete. You may, however, be asked to lie on the bed for two hours after the procedure and take it easy for the next 24 hours.
What happens during a liver biopsy?
A liver biopsy is a medical procedure in which a small piece of liver tissue is collected and examined under the microscope. This is the most accurate procedure to diagnose medical conditions related to the liver. Percutaneous liver biopsy is the commonest method for liver biopsy in which a long needle (called biopsy needle) is inserted through the skin of the abdomen to collect liver tissue. The tissue is examined in a laboratory under the microscope.
Before the procedure: Your doctor may:
- Order some blood tests and imaging studies.
- Ask you about any chronic health conditions.
- Ask you about any medications you are on.
- Ask about any allergies you may have.
- Explain the biopsy procedure in detail, including possible complications, and address your doubts and concerns related to the procedure.
- Obtain your written consent.
- Ask you to not eat anything for at least eight hours before the procedure.
During the procedure:
- You will be asked to wear a hospital gown.
- You will lie with your right side near the edge of the bed with your right arm above the head and the feet angled across.
- The doctor administers local anesthesia.
- You may be given intravenous medicine to keep you sedated during the procedure.
- The doctor will clean the area on your upper abdomen and make a small surgical cut (the incision).
- He will insert a needle with a large bore into this incision to take a small sample of liver tissue for analysis (this instrument is also called a biopsy gun).
- The incision is then closed with an adhesive bandage and dressing is done.
- You will be asked to lie on your right side for about two hours.
- The doctor or nurse will regularly record your vitals and look for any complications.
Who needs a liver biopsy?
A liver biopsy may be performed in situations such as:
- Abnormal liver test results
- Liver infections such as chronic hepatitis B and hepatitis C
- Autoimmune hepatitis (a condition in which the body’s immune system causes liver damage)
- Liver mass to rule out cancer
- Estimation of iron levels in hemochromatosis (a type of iron storage disease)
- Estimation of copper levels in Wilson’s disease (an inherited disease of copper metabolism)
- Alcoholic liver disease
- Evaluation of drug toxicity
- Evaluation of the donor suitability for liver transplant
- Diagnosis and staging of fatty liver diseases
- Evaluation of unexplained jaundice
- Diagnosis of cholestatic liver disease (diseases in which there is a hindrance to the normal flow of secretions or juices from the liver)
- Evaluation of liver injury due to drugs
A liver biopsy may be performed to evaluate the response to treatment in situations like:
- Follow-up evaluation while on treatment for chronic hepatitis C.
- Monitoring treatment response in case of autoimmune hepatitis.
- Diagnose acute rejection.
- Diagnose chronic rejection.
- Diagnose recurrent hepatitis C.
- Diagnose other posttransplant diseases and infections.
Also, in protocol biopsies to monitor in patients who received liver transplants to treat liver failure in chronic hepatitis C.