What is Done for a Liver Biopsy?

patient undergoing a liver biopsy If your doctor suspects that you may have liver disease, he or she may recommend a liver biopsy to gather more information to help determine a diagnosis and to guide treatment.

In this blog, the gastroenterologists at Gramercy Park Digestive Disease Center (GPDDC) in NYC explain how and why a liver biopsy is performed.

What is a liver biopsy?

A liver biopsy is a procedure to remove a small sample of liver tissue for further testing. This tissue is sent off to a laboratory to be analyzed in order to help your doctor make a diagnosis or to determine how severe an already-diagnosed condition is.

When is a liver biopsy performed?

Your doctor may recommend a liver biopsy if you’ve had any of the following:

  • Abnormal liver test results due to an undetermined cause
  • A tumor or other abnormality detected on an ultrasound, CT scan, or nuclear scan
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice)
  • Ongoing fevers with an unknown cause
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Abdominal swelling or severe pain
  • Itchy skin
  • Swelling in the legs and ankles
  • Bruising easily
  • An enlarged liver

A liver biopsy can be used to diagnose liver disease, determine the degree of liver damage you have, or determine how well treatment is working.

It can help diagnose and give more information about the following:

  • Hepatitis B or C
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Alcoholic liver disease
  • Hemochromatosis (iron overload)
  • Wilson’s disease (comer overload)
  • Autoimmune hepatitis
  • Primary biliary cirrhosis
  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis
  • Liver cancer

What is involved?

Before your procedure, your doctor will talk with you about any medications you take and let you know whether you should continue taking them in the days leading up to your biopsy. Lab tests will be performed on the day of your procedure to test your blood’s ability to clot.

The procedure itself takes only a few seconds, with the entire process taking only 15 to 20 minutes (not including recovery time). You’ll lie on your back, with your right hand under your head. Your doctor may use an ultrasound to mark the best area to insert the needle.

He or she will then clean and numb an area on your upper abdomen with pain-relieving medication. A small needle will be used to remove a small piece of liver tissue for further testing.

After the procedure, you’ll rest as your blood pressure and heart rate are monitored. When you go home, you’ll probably be asked to refrain from work or heavy exertion for a day or two.

After your doctor receives the results of your procedure, he or she will talk with you about the results as well as your treatment options.

What are the benefits of a liver biopsy?

This procedure provides the following benefits:

  • Allows your doctor to make an accurate diagnosis to guide treatment
  • Allows your doctor to test for the severity of an already-diagnosed issue to help monitor treatment progress
  • Takes only a few minutes
  • No overnight stay usually required
  • Few after-procedure restrictions

If you’re experiencing symptoms of or have been diagnosed with liver disease, make an appointment today with Gramercy Park Digestive Disease Center (GPDDC) in NYC. We’ll get the information we need to make an accurate diagnosis and partner with you to create the most effective treatment plan possible.

Digestive Disease Treatment + Gastrointestinal Services + Endoscopic Procedures

Accredited by Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care, Inc.
Thank you. We will get back to you as soon as possible.