(Biopsy of Liver)
by Daus Mahnke, MD
This is a procedure to obtain a sample of liver tissue.
Reasons for Procedure TOP
Biopsies of the liver are usually done to evaluate:
Possible Complications TOP
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
What to Expect TOP
Prior to Procedure
Your doctor may do the following:
Before your biopsy:
If local anesthesia is used, then only the area that is being operated on is numbed. It is given as an injection and may also be given with a sedative.
Description of the Procedure TOP
There are different techniques used to do a liver biopsy, including:
Conventional Liver Biopsy
You will lie on your back with your right hand behind your head. An ultrasound or CT scan may be used to help guide the placement of the needle. The skin will be cleaned. Next, medication will be injected to numb the area. A small incision will be made. You will need to exhale and hold your breath while the needle is inserted. Sometimes, the needle will need to be inserted several times. After the procedure, the area will be bandaged.
Laparoscopic Liver Biopsy
Your doctor will make a tiny incision. A long tool with a camera on the end will be passed into your abdomen in the area of the liver. It will send images of the liver to a TV screen. Additional incisions will be made to pass other tools. These tools will be used to remove samples of the liver.
Transvenous Liver Biopsy
A tiny flexible tube will be threaded into a vein in your neck or groin. This tube will be threaded all the way into the veins in your liver. A biopsy needle will be passed through the tube to get a biopsy sample.
Immediately After Procedure TOP
You will lie on your right side for at least 2 hours.
How Long Will It Take? TOP
About 15-20 minutes
Will It Hurt? TOP
You will have mild pain or cramping at the biopsy site. You may also have pain in the right shoulder. The pain should last for less than 30 minutes.
Postoperative Care TOP
Rest and avoid driving for at least 24 hours after the surgery. You may have to restrict certain activities, such as heavy lifting, until your doctor says it is okay to do so. Unless otherwise advised, you can resume your normal diet.
The biopsy results will take 1-4 weeks. You and your doctor will discuss the results.
Call Your Doctor TOP
Contact your doctor if your recovery is not progressing as expected or you develop complications, such as:
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American Liver Foundation
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Liver biopsy. American Liver Foundation website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated October 4, 2011. Accessed May 29, 2013.
Liver biopsy. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated April 23, 2012. Accessed May 29, 2013.
6/3/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com: Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart, I et al. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.
Last reviewed March 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daus Mahnke, MD
Last Updated: 5/8/2014
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