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Biopsy, Liver (Liver Biopsy)

A biopsy of the liver is a medical procedure in which a small amount of liver tissue is surgically removed so that it can be analysed in the laboratory by a pathologist. This is usually done to detect the presence of abnormal cells in the liver like cancer cells, or to evaluate serious disease processes such as cirrhosis. Your doctor may recommend this test if the blood or imaging tests indicate problems with your liver.

Why Liver Biopsy is Performed?

Some conditions that affect the liver and may require a biopsy include:

  • Alcoholic liver disease

  • Autoimmune hepatitis

  • Chronic hepatitis (B, C)

  • Hemochromatosis (too much of iron in the blood)

  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (FLD)

  • Primary biliary cirrhosis (which leads to scarring of liver)

  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis (which affects the liver’s bile ducts)

  • Wilson’s disease (a degenerative liver disease caused by excess of copper in  body)

How Liver Biopsy is Performed?

There are three basic types of liver biopsies:

  • Percutaneous: also called a needle biopsy, involving putting a thin needle through the abdomen and into the liver.

  • Transjugular: involves making a small incision at the neck. A thin flexible tube is inserted through the neck’s jugular vein and into the liver. It is used for people with bleeding disorders.

  • Laparoscopic: uses tube-like instruments that collect the sample through a small incision in the abdomen.

The percutaneous and transjugular biopsies require local anaesthesia. Laparoscopic ones shall require general anaesthesia. After the biopsy is complete, any incision wounds will be closed with stitches and shall be properly bandaged. You will typically have to rest for a few hours after the procedure under close monitoring of your vitals.

What are the risks of Liver Biopsy

As the incision for a liver biopsy is very small and needle biopsies are less invasive, so the risk for any infection is much lower.

After the Procedure

After the tissue sample is taken, it is sent to a laboratory for testing and the results could take up to few weeks. Once a diagnosis has been ascertained, your doctor will discuss the line of  treatment plan as next steps with you.

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