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Liver Biopsy

A liver biopsy is performed to diagnose liver disorders by examining liver tissue.

The physician obtains a small specimen of tissue by inserting a needle directly into the liver, through the abdomen.

The total procedure takes only fifteen minutes, but you will remain in the hospital for up to twenty-three hours after the procedure.

Liver Biopsy

What to Expect

When you know what to expect, it can help alleviate some of your stress. The liver biopsy procedure will only take a few minutes. You will be asked to lie on your back and remain as still as possible. An ultrasound will be used to mark the exact location of your liver. A CT may be used to ensure the needle reaches the liver. A local anesthetic will be applied to the area where the needle is to be inserted. You may be given an IV to administer sedatives or pain medication.

The doctor will make a small incision in the abdomen, close to the bottom of the rib cage on your right side. The biopsy needle is inserted, and you’ll be asked to exhale and hold your breath while the needle is inserted into the liver to withdraw a tissue sample. It will be withdrawn quickly. In some instances, the needle may be inserted more than one time if more samples need to be collected.

Following the liver biopsy, you will be asked to rest for up to four hours to reduce the risk of bleeding. During this time, you will be monitored by medical staff.

Prep Instructions

No aspirin products, non-steroidal medications or blood thinners 10 days prior to the procedure. Be sure to discuss your medications with your physician prior to stopping them to ensure it is safe for you to do so.

Have nothing to eat or drink from midnight the night before the procedure.

Procedure

Report to Patient Registration at Troy Beaumont Hospital approximately 45 minutes before the procedure.

There is no sedation for this procedure, but medication is given to help you relax, as there will be discomfort.

An area of the abdomen is cleaned and draped, and the physician will administer an anesthetic to numb the area. You may experience a stinging sensation and brief discomfort from this.

You will need to lie still and hold your breath while the physician inserts the biopsy needle into the liver. The procedure may cause a sensation of pressure and discomfort, but the needle will only remain in the liver for approximately one second.

Recovery

You will remain in the hospital on complete bed rest for several hours after the procedure to ensure there are no side effects from the biopsy.

The nursing staff will monitor your vital signs and will check for any signs of bleeding or bile peritonitis-tenderness, together with any symptoms of rigidity of the abdomen or biopsy site.

There may be slight discomfort for several hours after the procedure.

Prior to the liver biopsy procedure, the doctor will do blood tests. This will measure how well your blood clots. This is to make sure you are not likely to bleed after the biopsy. Your doctor will need a list of all the medications you take. Be sure to tell them about any over-the-counter and prescription medications. Also provide them with a list of supplements, vitamins or herbal remedies you are taking. You’ll be asked to discontinue any medications or supplements that may increase the risk of bleeding. You’ll also be asked to avoid eating or drinking at least six hours prior to the procedure.

A liver biopsy is a safe procedure. But as with all medical and surgical procedures, there are possible risks. The risks associated with a liver biopsy include:

  • Pain at the biopsy site is the most common side effect of having a liver biopsy. However, it is usually just a mild discomfort. The doctor may prescribe a pain medication to help you manage pain following the procedure.
  • Bleeding is possible following a liver biopsy. If you experience excessive bleeding, you may be hospitalized so you can be given a transfusion or undergo surgery if necessary.
  • It is rare, but if bacteria enters the bloodstream or the abdominal cavity during the procedure you could develop an infection, which would require further treatment.
  • In extremely rare cases a nearby internal organ could become damaged. Although it is rare, it is possible for a lung or gallbladder to be stuck with the needle used.

If the liver biopsy comes back as abnormal, your doctor will instruct you on the next steps. He may request more testing be done or the doctor may begin treatment based on the results. The biopsy can reveal any number of conditions present in the liver including cancer, cirrhosis, infections or hepatitis.

Following the liver biopsy, your doctor will explain any immediate results. The tissue results will take a few days. You should be able to go home two to four hours after the procedure. The area where the needle was inserted can be sore for up to a week. You will be instructed to avoid lifting more than 10 pounds for a week to allow the site to heal. Gradually over that week, you will be able to return to your normal activities. If you were given a sedative during the procedure, it’s a good idea to have someone stay with you or check on you for the first night.

If you were given a sedative prior to the liver biopsy, you will need someone to drive you home. Even if you were not given a sedative, it’s a good idea to have someone who can drive you home in case you are too tired.

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