What is a Liver Biopsy?

A liver biopsy is a surgical procedure that is used to diagnose liver problems. Tissue samples from your liver are removed and examined under a microscope for signs of disease or injury.

A liver biopsy will reveal whether your liver contains cancer cells or other abnormal cells. It can also show how well your liver is functioning.

Types of Liver Biopsies

1) Percutaneous Liver Biopsy

It is the most common method for diagnosing liver diseases. Your surgeon will administer a local anesthetic or may give you medicine through an IV to make you relax. The surgeon will put a small needle through the skin into your liver to remove a sample.

2) Laparoscopic Liver Biopsy

Your surgeon will give a general anesthetic. Further, the surgeon will put a thin, lighted tube (laparoscope) into your skin through a small cut. The tube has a small video camera that displays the stomach’s internal view on a computer screen. Observing the screen, the surgeon puts the needle through another tube to remove the sample.

3) Transjugular Liver Biopsy 

Liver specialists use this type of biopsy if you have blood-clotting problems or fluid in your stomach. Your Doctor will give a local anesthetic to make an incision into a vein in the neck. The doctor inserts a catheter through the vein down to the liver. Then, puts a contrast dye into the catheter and takes X-rays. The dye makes the vein visible on the X-rays. The needle passes through the catheter to your liver. Your doctor will remove the tissue samples through the catheter.

If your surgeon wants a sample from a specific part of your liver, the biopsy may be performed in the radiology unit. It will be conducted using an imaging test such as:

  • Ultrasound  – It implements high-frequency sound waves to produce images.
  • MRI – It uses a combination of large magnets, radio waves, and a computer to produce images.
  • CT scan – It utilizes both X-rays and computer technology to create images of organs and tissues of the body.

Why Might You Need A Liver Biopsy?

A liver biopsy is used to determine whether you have a liver disease that signs or lab tests cannot diagnose. If you have any of the following symptoms, a liver specialist can recommend a biopsy:

  • An enlarged liver
  • Abnormal lab tests that indicate liver disease
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)

A liver biopsy may be used to investigate if you have a condition such as:

  • Auto-Immune Hepatitis – Inflammation of the liver
  • Liver tumour – An abnormal lump or mass of tissue
  • Wilson liver disease – Liver damage caused by copper accumulation
  • Fibrosis of the liver – The growth of scar tissue due to infection, inflammation, or injury.
  • Non-alcoholic liver disease – Liver disease is caused by the accumulation of fat in the liver

Steps To Take Before Undergoing Liver Biopsy 

  1. Your doctor may instruct you to avoid specific medication or supplements.
  2. Your doctor will need a blood test to check if you have blood-clotting problems.
  3. In any such situation, your doctor will prescribe medicine to avoid excessive bleeding.
  4. Your doctor might ask you to avoid meals for 6 to 8 hours before the procedure starts.


How is Liver Biopsy Done?

  • It is a simple procedure that involves removing the liver tissue using a biopsy needle.
  • Your doctor will perform the biopsy in the OPD for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • The doctor will ask you to lie down on the treatment couch and conduct an ultrasound scan to evaluate the exact area of your liver.
  • Your doctor will perform a biopsy after giving local anesthesia.

What Happens After Liver Biopsy?

  • You are likely to feel some pain at the biopsy site and slight pain in the shoulder or back.
  • You will be observed in the recovery room for the next few hours.
  • You will be prescribed painkillers and advised to avoid any physical exertion for the next few days.

The Risks Involved in the Liver Biopsy are:

  • Bleeding and mild discomfort.
  • Pneumothorax or a punctured lung.
  • Accidental injury to the adjacent parts such as gallbladder, intestines, or kidney.
  • Infection.