This procedure is done to find the cause of problems with the liver, such as liver disease, cancers, and infection
Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:
Things that may raise the risk of problems are:
The surgical team may meet with you to talk about:
You may be given:
There are three ways a liver biopsy is done:
A small incision will be made near your ribs. An ultrasound or CT scan may be used to help guide the needle. You will need to exhale and hold your breath while the needle is inserted. This may need to be done more than once. The needle and sample will be removed. A bandage will be put on the incision.
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A tiny incision will be made. A long tool with a camera on the end will be passed into the belly near the liver. More incisions will be made to pass other tools. These tools will be used to remove samples of the liver. The tools will be removed. A bandage will be put over the incision.
A tiny flexible tube will be threaded into a vein in the neck or groin. This tube will be threaded into the veins in the liver. A needle will be passed through the tube to get a sample. The tube and needle will be removed.
You will lie on your right side for at least two hours.
About 15 to 20 minutes
Pain and cramping at the biopsy site are common in the first few hours or days. You may also have pain in the right shoulder.
Most people can go home the same day. If there are problems, you may need to stay longer.
Right after the procedure, the staff may give you medicine to treat pain.
During your stay, staff will take steps to lower your chance of infection, such as:
You can also lower your chance of infection by:
Activities will need to be limited for a few days. The biopsy results will take 1 to 4 weeks to get back. You and your doctor will discuss the results.
Call the doctor if you are not getting better or you have:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Liver Foundation
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Canadian Liver Foundation
Diagnosing liver disease—liver biopsy and liver function tests. American Liver Foundation website. Available at: https://liverfoundation.org/for-patients/about-the-liver/the-progression-of-liver-disease/diagnosing-liver-disease/. Accessed August 14, 2020.
Liver biopsy. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diagnostic-tests/liver-biopsy. Accessed August 14, 2020.
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guideline on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, assessment and management. NICE 2016 Jul:NG49.
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/nonalcoholic-fatty-liver-disease-nafld. Accessed August 14, 2020.
Last reviewed March 2020 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
James P. Cornell, MD
Last Updated: 3/3/2021