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 may recommend a liver biopsy if blood tests or imaging studies suggest you might have a liver problem. A liver biopsy is also used to determine the severity of liver disease. This information helps guide treatment decisions.

The most common type of liver biopsy is called percutaneous liver biopsy. It involves inserting a thin needle through your abdomen into the liver and removing a small piece of tissue. Two other types of liver biopsy — one using a vein in the neck (transjugular) and the other using a small abdominal incision (laparoscopic) — also remove liver tissue with a needle.

Why it's done Risks How you prepare What you can expect Results

A liver biopsy may be done to:

  • Diagnose a liver problem that can't be otherwise identified
  • Obtain a sample of tissue from an abnormality found by an imaging study
  • Determine the severity of liver disease — a process called staging
  • Help develop treatment plans based on the liver's condition
  • Determine how well treatment for liver disease is working
  • Monitor the liver after a liver transplant

Your doctor may recommend a liver biopsy if you have:

  • Abnormal liver test results that can't be explained
  • A mass (tumor) or other abnormalities on your liver as seen on imaging tests
  • Ongoing, unexplained fevers

A liver biopsy also is commonly performed to help diagnose and stage certain liver diseases, including:

  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Chronic hepatitis B or C
  • Autoimmune hepatitis
  • Alcoholic liver disease
  • Primary biliary cirrhosis
  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis
  • Hemochromatosis
  • Wilson's disease

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