A liver biopsy is performed as a diagnostic test. Comparable in complexity to a minor surgical procedure, it is used to examine a small piece of tissue from your liver for signs of damage or disease.

Your physician might recommend a liver biopsy to help determine the extent of cirrhosis, or scarring, caused by a variety of conditions such as chronic hepatitis B or C, fatty liver disease such as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), alcoholic liver disease, primary biliary cirrhosis, hemochromatosis and Wilson’s disease.

There are two approaches to doing a liver biopsy, percutaneous or transjugular. At NorthShore, our experienced interventional radiologists perform both types of procedures.

Percutaneous Biopsy

  Performed by inserting a needle into your liver by direct skin puncture. Your physician will mark the site for biopsy, inject a local anesthetic to numb the area, make a small incision near the rib cage and then insert the biopsy needle to retrieve a tissue sample. The actual biopsy takes only a few seconds. Patients have the option of receiving intravenous pain medicine and sedation during the procedure.

Transjugular Liver Biopsy

Involves inserting a small catheter into your right jugular vein in the neck under local anesthesia. Your physician will advance the catheter to your liver through the vascular system. Through this catheter, a biopsy needle will be used to obtain tissue samples. With this approach, the abdominal wall does not get punctured. As with the percutaneous biopsy, you can choose to receive intravenous pain medicine and sedation for this procedure.

NorthShore has recently begun offering FibroScan® an exciting new non-invasive alternative to traditional liver biopsy. Your physician will discuss if this might be an option for you.

How to Prepare for Liver Biopsy

  • No food or liquids (this includes water) minimally 6 hours prior to the procedure. However, you may take your medications with sips of water prior to your liver biopsy.
  • Please consult with your physician regarding medication restrictions (especially aspirin, and other anti-inflammatory products) and preliminary blood tests.
  • Plan to take the day off from work.
  • Consult with your physician to see if intravenous sedation will be used. Since the procedure is typically performed with intravenous sedation, you will likely not be able to drive a car or return to work until the next day. You will be asked to arrange for a friend or family member to drive you home after the biopsy.

What to Expect Once You Arrive for Liver Biopsy

  • Arrive 30 minutes before the procedure.
  • The physician may use ultrasound to mark the area.
  • You may have an intravenous line placed, since the procedure is typically performed with intravenous sedation.
  • The procedure takes about 20 minutes.

What to Expect After Liver Biopsy

  • You will be monitored in a recovery area for a few (2 to 6) hours.
  • You will be provided with written discharge instructions.
  • You may expect some soreness at the incision site.

For More Information

Liver biopsy is available at all of our GI lab locations. For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our gastroenterologists, please call 888.364.6400.

NorthShore offers interpretive language services for non-English speaking patients. A request for this no-cost service should be made at the time of appointment scheduling.

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