Percutaneous Liver Biopsy

This is a procedure which is very well tolerated and is valuable in the diagnosis and management of liver disease. The biopsy involves taking a tiny specimen of liver tissue with a needle. It is performed at Forsyth Medical Center by our physicians.

Why is a liver biopsy recommended?

There are many types of liver disease and each type requires specialized treatment. While x-rays, ultrasounds, and blood work are helpful, the liver biopsy is an important step in establishing an accurate diagnosis to allow the physician to manage your medical care more precisely.

What preparation is required? Should I discontinue my medications?

No special dietary restrictions are required. We recommend not eating for 2 hours prior to your exam.

If you have not already done so, be sure to let your our office know as soon as possible if you are taking anticoagulants or medications used to thin the blood. This includes some over the counter medications such as Motrin or aspirin.

Before stopping any medication, please discuss with your physician.

What should I expect during the procedure?

The liver biopsy is a brief procedure. The physician will inject a local anesthetic into a small area between your lower ribs on the right side before inserting the biopsy needle. You will be instructed to hold your breath during the procedure. While the biopsy is well tolerated, you will experience some discomfort. In addition, you may experience referred pain (pain in a location other than your biopsy site).

What happens after the liver biopsy?

After the biopsy has been completed, you will be asked to lie on your right side for one hour followed by quiet bed rest at the hospital. A nurse will check your vital signs (blood pressure, pulse, respiration) at regular intervals.
If you have been given medications during the procedure an adult must accompany you home because you will not be allowed to drive, take a taxi or ride the bus.

For one week or as directed by your physician:

  • Do not engage in heavy lifting or strenuous activity.
  • Take precautions to avoid direct injury to your biopsy area.
  • Your physician will prescribe pain medication as needed.

What are possible complications from a percutaneous liver biopsy?

A Liver biopsy is safe and associated with low risk.  Complications can occur but are uncommon.

  • Bleeding: Because the liver is well supplied with blood, bleeding can occur at the biopsy site. Precautions are taken before, during and after the procedure to reduce this risk.
  • Infection:  Although rare, the lung, intestine, or gallbladder could possibly be pierced by the biopsy needle, resulting in an infection.
  • Local irritation of the vein:  If you are given intravenous sedation, minor localized irritation of the vein may occur at the site of medication injection.
  • Drug reaction:  As with any medication, drug reactions are possible.

Notify your physician if any of these conditions are noted.

If the physician is unable to obtain an adequate specimen, the biopsy may need to be repeated.