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Liver biopsy

What is a Liver Biopsy?

A liver biopsy is a diagnostic procedure performed to remove a small piece of liver tissue which is then examined under a microscope to diagnose particular liver abnormalities.

What happens before the biopsy?

The procedure is normally performed as a day procedure. You will need to fast for four hours prior to the liver biopsy. You will need a blood test to check on your blood clotting before the procedure. This is generally done a week or so before the procedure.

If you take medication that thins your blood such as Plavix (Clopidorel), Asprin (Cartia) or Warfarin these may increase the risk of bleeding and may need to be stopped prior to your procedure. Your Doctor will advise you when to do this.

What to expect during the procedure

An initial CT or ultrasound will be performed to determine a suitable area for the biopsy. The skin over the liver is numbed with local anaesthetic and covered with a sterile drape. You will be asked to take a few deep breaths then you will be asked to hold your breath. As you hold your breath the biopsy needle is introduced into the liver and a small piece of tissue is removed. The procedure maybe repeated a couple of times only to allow your doctor to obtain a satisfactory sample of tissue from your liver. Generally the procedure only takes 10–15 minutes. A dressing will be placed over the site were the needle was removed.

What happens after the biopsy is completed?

You will be transported back to the CardioVascular Unit where you will be asked to rest for the next 2–3 hours. Your blood pressure will be monitored and the dressing checked. You will be given a meal and made comfortable.

When you go home you should rest for the remainder of the day and avoid any heavy lifting for up to 48 hours. It is very important to have someone to stay with you overnight to assist you if you have any problems. You may return to work after two days.

You are not to drive for the next 24 hours and please organise to have someone drive you home on the day of the procedure.

Are there any complications?

Complications of liver biopsy are relatively rare. The most common is pain at the site that the biopsy is taken from or the right shoulder. Most over the counter analgesia is adequate to control this pain, such as Panadol, Panamax or if pain persists Panadeine. If pain is not relieved it is important to contact your doctor.

The main complication is bleeding and only occurs in around 1 in every 100 cases. It is generally minor and may not require treatment. More severe bleeding is very rare and more common if you have a lot of fluid in the abdomen (ascites) or a blood clotting disorder.

Other complications can result from the biopsy needle injuring organs close to the biopsy site such as the right lung, gall bladder or bowel. To significantly minimise this risk we use image guidance to ensure that the needle does not come into contact with these organs throughout the procedure.

When will the results be available?

Usually available in four to five days through your referring doctor. What should you look for after discharge?

  • severe/increasing abdominal or shoulder tip pain
  • faintness
  • shortness of breath
  • oozing of blood from the biopsy site.

If you have any questions please contact your doctor, Mater Private Hospital Brisbane CardioVascular Unit on 07 3163 6700 or Qscan on 07 3357 0361 or 07 3357 0333. You will be required to sign a consent form to say that the procedure has been explained to you fully, including risks and benefits. If you need any clarification please ask your doctor for more information before you sign.

Mater Private CardioVascular Unit

Mater Private Hospital Brisbane
Level 6, 301 Vulture Street, South Brisbane,
Queensland 4101

Telephone: 07 3163 6700
Bookings: 07 3163 1146 or 07 3163 1147
Facsimilie: 07 3163 6720


© 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
Last modified 25/9/2019.
Consumers were consulted in the development of this patient information.
Last consumer engagement date: 28/2/2014
For further translated health information, you can visit healthtranslations.vic.gov.au/ supported by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services that offers a range of patient information in multiple languages.
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