What Is a Liver Biopsy?
A liver biopsy is a procedure to remove a small piece of liver tissue, so it can be examined under a microscope for signs of damage or disease. Your doctor will insert a needle through your skin and into your liver. Imaging techniques such as computed tomography (CT) or ultrasound are often used to help guide the interventional radiologist’s instruments to the appropriate site.
Before the Liver Biopsy
- No food or liquids for 6 hours prior to the procedure. However, you may take all regular medications as scheduled with small sips of water.
- It is required that you arrange for a relative or friend to drive you home after the procedure.
- Report any medications you are taking to the radiology nurse, including “blood thinners”, such as aspirin, Plavix, Lovenox, Coumadin, Pradaxa, Xarelto, or Eliquis. Your physician may advise you to stop taking a “blood thinner” for a specific period of time before your procedure.
- Prior to your procedure, your blood will be tested to determine if your blood clots normally.
- Report any allergies to the radiology nurse, especially those to iodine contrast (x-ray dye) or local anesthetic medications.
- Women should always inform the x-ray technologist if there is any possibility that they are pregnant. Many imaging tests are not performed during pregnancy so as not to expose the fetus to radiation.
During the Biopsy
- A nurse will insert an intravenous (IV) line into a vein in your hand or arm so that medication can be given intravenously to help you relax.
- You will be positioned on your back or side on the CT or ultrasound table and images will be taken to find the best location for biopsy.
- The skin is cleaned with an antiseptic solution and the abdominal area is covered with a large sterile sheet.
- You will feel a slight pin prick when the local anesthetic (numbing medicine) is injected in the area.
- Using imaging as a guide, the doctor inserts the needle through the skin and advances it into the liver and removes samples of tissue. While this is done, you will be told to hold your breath. Several specimens may be needed for complete analysis.
- After the sampling, the needle is removed and a bandage is placed over the incision site.
- You will be monitored for a few hours after your biopsy.
Potential Risks and Complications
- Bleeding at the procedure site
- Infection at the procedure site
- Very rarely, the liver may be damaged
- Injury to an adjacent nerve, blood vessel, or muscle
After the Liver Biopsy
- You must stay in the company of a responsible adult within 30 minutes of the hospital on the night following your biopsy.
- Get plenty of rest for the remainder of the day after your biopsy. You may return to light activity the day after the biopsy.
- If sedation medications were given, please review the following:
- You have been given a medicine that causes temporary drowsiness, clumsiness, and poor judgment. For the remainder of the day, do not drive, operate machinery or make important decisions; and avoid dangerous activities, including bicycling, swimming, or working at heights.
- You may temporarily feel sick, weak, or dizzy. This is normal. Some people will vomit if they eat too soon. As soon as you feel like you can drink without vomiting, you should try water, juice, or soup. You can progress to solid foods if the fluids do not cause nausea and you are feeling well.
- Avoid heavy lifting or strenuous labor for 3 days after your biopsy.
- Mild pain, discomfort, or bruising at the procedure site is expected. You may take over-the-counter Tylenol for any pain you may experience.
- You will have a small bandage over the site. You may remove the bandage in 3 days and leave the site dry and exposed. You may shower, but do not have a tub bath for 3 days.
Call your doctor if you have any of the following:
- Signs of infection at the procedure site, such as redness, swelling, or a fever.
- Bleeding from the procedure site.
- Worsening, severe pain near the procedure site.
- Fainting or feeling lightheaded.
If any further questions or complications arise and you do not know what to do, please call the radiology department at Summit Healthcare at (928) 537-4375, ext. 6549. For questions after hours please ask for ext. 6332.
Getting your biopsy results may take a few days. When the results are ready, your doctor will discuss them with you.