Liver Biopsy

A liver biopsy involves your doctor taking a small piece of tissue from your liver so that they can examine it to see if there is any damage or disease to the liver.

The reasons why your doctor may want to do a liver biopsy could be that your liver function tests (LFTs) may be abnormal, possibly suggesting that your liver is not working properly or you may have an enlarged liver. For the doctor to accurately determine what is wrong with your liver, a liver biopsy may be the best approach.

Before you have your liver biopsy, the doctor will do some tests to ensure that the risks of the biopsy are kept to a minimum. First, your doctor will take some blood to see if it clots properly (since the liver produces some of the factors that help blood to clot). Your doctor will also ask you what medications you take . make sure you mention .blood thinning. medications, including aspirin. One week before surgery, it is recommended that you stop taking aspirin, ibuprofen and anticoagulants (such as warfarin). 

You have to go to the hospital for a liver biopsy. For the biopsy, you will be lying on a hospital bed and the nurse will put in an intravenous (IV) line so that you can be given medication for the procedure.

When you have the biopsy, you will be lying on your back or turned slightly on your left side, with your right arm above your head. You will be given some local anaesthetic with a needle to numb the area and then the doctor will make a small incision (.cut.) in your right side, near your ribcage. The doctor will then put a biopsy needle in and take out a small piece of your liver within the needle. Sometime the doctor may use an ultrasound image of your liver to help guide the needle to the right spot. 

The doctor will ask you to hold your breath for 5-10 seconds while they put the needle into your liver. You might feel a dull pain when this happens. The actual procedure should take only a few minutes. After the biopsy, you will get a bandage put over the incision and you will have to lie on your right side, pressed up against a towel, for at least 2 hours. Sometime patients may need to stay in hospital for up to 24 hours after the biopsy to recover from the sedative and to allow the medical staff to check for complications before you can go home.

Since you may be having a sedative, you will need to arrange for someone to drive you home, as you can't driver after having a sedative. You have to go directly home and remain in bed for 8-12 hours, depending on what your doctor tells you. And to make sure that the incision and you liver can heal, you shouldn.t exert yourself too much for the next week. You might get a little bit of soreness at the incision site and you might get some pain in your right shoulder.

There are some risks involved in having a liver biopsy, such as puncture of the lung or gallbladder, infection, bleeding and pain, but these complications are rare. You should ask the doctor about these complications, how to recognise them, and what action to take.