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Liver Biopsy

What is a liver biopsy?

A liver biopsy is a quick, painless procedure designed to remove a sample of liver tissue for diagnostic purposes. While a liver biopsy does involve a small incision and a hollow-tube needle, the procedure is remarkably quick and painless.

If you are staying at the hospital as an inpatient, doctors perform the liver biopsy in your room, at your bedside. Many patients have their liver biopsies done as outpatients, and return home the same day. As an outpatient, you will be provided a room with a bed so you can lie down comfortably.

You may feel nervous at the beginning of the procedure, especially if you have never had a liver biopsy before. Many patients are surprised to find that the liver biopsy procedure is much easier to get through than they expected.

A Typical Liver Biopsy

Before your liver biopsy, a nurse prepares a biopsy kit while your doctor talks with you and explains the procedure. Your doctor then asks you to lie flat on your back.  

Your doctor begins feeling your liver with his or her hands (palpating), to find the best spot for inserting the needle. He or she marks the spot with a small red marker, then sterilizes the area on and around the biopsy mark with a Betadine solution. The doctor places a sterile paper sheet over the area. This special type of paper has a circular cutout framing the biopsy location. The cutout has an adhesive ring to help it stick to your body.

Once this is done, the doctor administers a local anesthetic (Lidocaine) by injection. The biopsy location is numbed almost immediately.

Using a small, sharp blade, the doctor makes a very small, deep incision at the biopsy mark. You may feel a little pressure, but no pain.

Your doctor then inserts a hollow biopsy needle through the incision and into your liver. The needle immediately collects a sample of your liver, and the doctor quickly removes the needle. He or she deposits the sample into a jar of formaldehyde-based preservative called formalin.

After putting a bandage over the wound, the doctor has you lie on your side. This puts some pressure on the liver and helps stop any bleeding. The liver biopsy procedure is complete.

How long does it take for a liver biopsy?

From start to finish, the liver biopsy itself normally takes about ten minutes. You will have to lie in bed for a few hours after it is over, however. During this time, your doctor will monitor you to make sure no internal bleeding or other complications occur. Outpatients usually leave the hospital after four to six hours.

You should have a family member or friend come with you, so he or she can drive you home after the liver biopsy. You will probably feel tired, not quite up to doing things that require a lot of concentration or physical effort. In fact, it's a good idea to just relax at home for the rest of the day.

Learn more about other Liver Transplant Procedures.

Last Update
November 20, 2010
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Last Update
November 20, 2010
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