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liver biopsy

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Liver and gall bladder

Alternative Names
biopsy of the liver, percutaneous liver biopsy

This test involves taking a small tissue sample, or called a biopsy, of the liver for analysis. It is done to help diagnose liver disease.

Who is a candidate for the test?
A doctor may recommend this test if a person is suspected of having potentially serious liver disease.

How is the test performed?
This test is performed in a hospital. The person undergoing the test is usually given a sedative, which is a drug that calms a person, and pain medication before the procedure is performed.

After the correct site over the rib cage or belly has been determined, the skin is cleansed with an antiseptic solution and a local anaesthetic is injected. When the skin is numb, a thin needle is inserted through the body wall and into the liver. A small sample of tissue is withdrawn and sent to the laboratory to be analysed. Pressure is applied to the puncture site to prevent bleeding, and the site is bandaged.

What is involved in preparation for the test?
A doctor will provide specific instructions for this test. After the procedure, patients are often kept overnight in the hospital for observation and allowed to leave within 24 hours if all goes well. Home care instructions are individualised and provided by the doctor.

What do the test results mean?
Abnormal results may indicate a number of liver diseases including:
  • hepatitis, or an inflammation of the liver such as that from viral hepatitis drugs
  • cirrhosis, which is a disease that causes the liver to become covered with fibre-like tissue
  • cancer
  • tuberculosis, which is a highly contagious infection that usually begins in the lungs
Author: David T. Moran, MD
Reviewer: HealthAnswers Australia Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr David Taylor, Chief Medical Officer HealthAnswers Australia
Last Updated: 1/10/2001
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.


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