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Liver biopsy


At Mater Health Services we understand that being in hospital can be a very stressful experience. This booklet aims to alleviate some of your concerns in keeping with our Mission to offer compassionate, quality care that promotes dignity while responding to patients’ needs. It explains briefly the events that may occur during your visit and the things to expect when you are discharged from the hospital.

It is, however, only a guideline as each person may require differing treatments.

If you have any questions about your treatment please ask your doctor or nurse.

Our pastoral care team offers a caring support network to all patients. The dedicated members of this team will visit you during your stay and are available at your request to discuss any anxieties or problems that you may have.

What is a liver biopsy?

Liver BiopsyIn a liver biopsy the doctor examines a small piece of tissue from your liver for signs of damage or disease. A special needle is used to remove the tissue from the liver. The doctor decides to do a liver biopsy after tests suggest that the liver does not work properly. An X-ray could suggest that the liver is swollen. Looking at liver tissue itself is the best way to determine whether the liver is healthy or what is causing it to be damaged.

A needle is put into the liver through the abdominal or chest wall. A piece of liver tissue is removed through the needle and sent to pathology for testing. More than one piece of liver tissue may be required.

The procedure is usually done using local anaesthetic to numb the area. You may be given some medication to help you relax.

What to expect during your liver biopsy

Liver biopsy is considered minor surgery, and therefore is done in a hospital. For the biopsy, you will lie on a hospital bed on your back with your right hand above your head. After marking the outline of your liver and injecting a local anaesthetic to numb the area, the physician will make a small incision in your right side near your rib cage, then insert the biopsy needle and retrieve a sample of liver tissue. In some cases, the doctor may use an ultrasound image of the liver to help guide the needle to a specific spot. It is important to lie very still during the procedure. The doctor will ask you to hold your breath for 5 to 10 seconds while he or she inserts the needle. You may feel pressure and a dull pain. The entire procedure takes about 20 minutes.

After your procedure

The nurse will monitor your vital signs and level of pain. You will be monitored for a minimum of six hours after your procedure, while lying in bed.

You may feel pain in your right shoulder which is referred pain. This pain is caused by irritation of the diaphragm muscle and should disappear within a few hours or days. If the pain is persistent your condition will be assessed and pain relief will be provided.

Post procedure information

  1. Please stay in the company of a responsible adult within the Brisbane region for 24 hours.
  2. Do not drive or operate any heavy machinery.
  3. Do not consume alcohol for the remainder for the day.
  4. Do not drive a car, motorcycle or ride a bicycle.
  5. Do not sign any legal documents or make any important decisions.
  6. Do not engage in sports or heavy lifting for 48 hours.
  7. Keep dressing on for 48 hours, then remove.


Please contact either your General Practitioner (GP); the Mater Hospital Brisbane Procedure Unit on 07 3163 8496; or the Mater Hospital Brisbane Emergency Department on telephone 07 3163 8111, IMMEDIATELY if you experience any of the following after discharge: severe pain; abdominal distension; fever; vomiting; swelling at the site and bleeding at the site.

Mater Hospital Brisbane

Raymond Terrace, South Brisbane Qld 4101
Telephone: 07 3163 8111


Staff at Mater Hospital Brisbane, Raymond Terrace, South Brisbane, Qld 4101

© 2010 Mater Misericordiae Ltd. ACN 096 708 922.

Mater acknowledges consumer consultation in the development of this patient information.
Mater Doc Num: PI-CLN-420026 , HOSP-001-00665
Last modified 16/11/2015.
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