A liver biopsy is a procedure during which a small sample of tissue is removed from your liver for the purpose of further examination under a microscope. A biopsy allows for an in depth evaluation into the liver for the detection of abnormalities, damage or disease that may be the cause of certain symptoms.
There are several reasons that your physician may recommend a liver biopsy, including:
- Detection of liver disease, such as a fatty liver
- Determine the cause of an abnormal blood test, particularly from aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and alanine aminotransferase (ALT)
- Evaluate inflammation or damage to the liver caused by hepatitis
- Evaluate the function of a transplanted liver
- Determine the cause of lingering and unexplained fever
- Evaluate a mass found on the liver during an x-ray, CT scan or ultrasound
The percutaneous liver biopsy is the most common form of this procedure. It involves the insertion of a thin needle through your abdomen between two of your lower right ribs. The needle is used to remove a small piece of tissue that is used in the evaluation of serious conditions that may be present in your liver. In addition to the percutaneous procedure, liver biopsies are also administered through a vein in the neck, which is called a transjugular biopsy, or a laparoscopic biopsy which employs the use of a small abdominal incision. Your physician will determine which method of liver biopsy is the most beneficial for your needs.
While there are several risks associated with liver biopsies, extreme complications are incredibly rare. Possible risks associated with this procedure include:
- Damage to surrounding organs
- Abdominal pain
The best way to avoid complications associated with liver biopsy is to ensure that your procedure is being performed by an experienced physician, which you can ensure by having your liver biopsy performed by a physician with Gastroenterology Consultants.
In preparation for a liver biopsy your physician will instruct you to refrain from food six-to-eight hours prior. You will also have a small amount of blood drawn to ensure that you do not have any blood clotting problems. If it is found that your blood does not clot properly you may be prescribed medication to reduce the risk of bleeding during and after the procedure. A liver biopsy is an out-patient procedure, so you should expect to be able to return home after the exam is complete, though due to the sedative you will not be permitted to drive for the remainder of the day. Depending on the form of biopsy that is being conducted, the procedure will take between 15 and 60 minutes, and you should also expect to remain in the hospital between two and six hours following the exam so that your physician can ensure that you do not experience any complications.