A liver biopsy is a procedure in which a physician obtains a small piece of tissue from the liver to look for signs of damage or disease. It is often done as part of the evaluation of abnormal liver function tests or to monitor a known liver condition. While blood tests can be informative, looking at liver tissue itself under a microscope is the best way to determine what is damaging the liver and how abnormal it is. Preparation often involves stopping any blood thinners and checking blood tests a few days prior to make sure your blood clots properly. Patients are instructed to remain NPO for 6-8 hours prior. The procedure is usually done at the hospital (St. Vincent’s Medical Center) by either your gastroenterologist or a radiologist. A mild sedative may be given prior to the procedure, depending on your doctor. An ultrasound is often used to identify the best location to perform the biopsy. A local anesthetic is used to numb the skin, and a needle is then quickly advanced into and out of the liver. Patients are often monitored for several hours following the procedure. Possible rare complications include internal bleeding and damage to another organ.
For more information, please refer to the NIDDK (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases) website.