Am I a Candidate for a Liver Biopsy?
Your liver is your largest internal organ, and it’s located mainly in the upper right part of your abdomen. It carries out many essential functions, including making proteins and blood clotting factors, producing bile, and manufacturing triglycerides and cholesterol.
When your doctor suspects that you may have a liver-related issue, they may recommend a liver biopsy.
What Is a Liver Biopsy?
A liver biopsy is a procedure that allows your doctor to collect a small tissue sample from your liver. It can be performed as an in-office or outpatient procedure or during surgery. Most commonly, it involves inserting a small, hollow needle through the abdomen into the liver. The procedure can also be performed by using a needle in a vein in the neck or through a small abdominal incision.
After the tissue is collected, it is examined in a laboratory to gather information.
Why Would You Need a Liver Biopsy?
A liver biopsy can be performed to provide more information about the following:
- Abnormal liver enzymes test
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin)
- Unexplained liver enlargement
- A liver abnormality such as a mass found on an imaging scan
- Determine the severity of liver disease
- Ongoing, unexplained fevers
- Measure how well liver disease treatment is working
- Monitoring a liver transplant
Information gathered from a liver biopsy can be used to diagnose, determine, and treat issues that include the following:
- Fatty liver disease
- Hepatitis – including types B or C & autoimmune hepatitis
- Wilson’s disease – an inherited disorder that causes your body to retain copper
- Primary biliary cirrhosis – a chronic disease that causes the liver’s bile ducts to be destroyed
- Hemochromatosis – causes your body to absorb and store too much iron
How Is a Liver Biopsy Performed?
The most common type of liver biopsy is performed as you lie on your back on an exam table. Your doctor may use an ultrasound to pinpoint your liver's location to help precisely direct the needle into your liver. Medication will be applied to numb the area where the needle will be inserted. Your doctor will then make a small incision near the bottom of your rib cage and insert the needle into your liver for just a few seconds.
What Is the Recovery Process?
You’ll stay for observation, and you might experience some minor pain and soreness. If you need it, your doctor can give you some pain medicine. You should wait at least 8 hours to drive and avoid doing vigorous physical activity or heavy lifting for at least a week. You can take acetaminophen if you need it, but don’t take aspirin or anti-inflammatory drugs (such as ibuprofen or Advil).
Complications are rare, but you should call your doctor or go to the emergency room if you have a fever, have trouble breathing, experience chills or dizziness or have severe pain within 72 hours after your biopsy.
It usually takes just a few days for your doctor to receive the results of the biopsy from the laboratory, and they will discuss them with you and determine what, if any, further testing or treatment may be needed.
If you’re a candidate for a liver biopsy, make an appointment today with GPDDC. Our doctors are dedicated to providing personalized health care that meets your needs.