A liver biopsy is a medical procedure during which the doctor inserts a small needle into the liver to collect a tissue sample. Then the collected tissue is analyzed in a laboratory to help the doctor diagnose a variety of disorders and diseases in the liver.
A liver biopsy is done to evaluate diseases, such as cirrhosis or to detect infection, inflammation or cancerous cells. The doctor may also suggest a liver biopsy if blood or imaging tests indicate there are problems in the liver.
The liver is an important organ which does many things the body needs to function and survive, such as it produces proteins and enzymes responsible for essential metabolic processes. The liver also removes contaminants from the blood, helps fight infection and stores essential vitamins and nutrients.
Liver biopsies are performed to determine whether an area is infected, inflamed or cancerous or the severity of liver damage. The doctor may test the following during a liver biopsy:
- Digestive system issues
- Persistent abdominal pain
- Right upper quadrant abdominal mass
- Laboratory tests that indicate certain liver problems
A liver biopsy is done if you receive abnormal results in other liver tests, have a tumour or mass in your liver, or experience consistent, unexplainable fever.
Imaging tests, such as CT scans and X-rays can help the doctor identify areas of concern, they can’t always give an exact diagnosis or determine the best treatments. For this, the doctor recommends a liver biopsy.
The doctor may use a liver biopsy to help diagnose and monitor several liver disorders. Following are some conditions that affect the liver and may need a biopsy:
- Autoimmune hepatitis
- Alcoholic liver disease
- Chronic hepatitis (B or C)
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
- Primary biliary cirrhosis
- Primary sclerosing cholangitis
- Wilson’s disease
- Hemochromatosis (too much iron in the blood)
In the beginning, the doctor first asks you to put on the hospital gown. After that, the doctor gives you a sedative through an intravenous (IV) line to help you relax during the entire procedure.
There are three basic types of liver biopsies, including:
- Percutaneous: This is also called a needle biopsy which involves putting a thin needle through the abdomen and into the liver.
- Tran jugular: During this procedure, the doctor makes a small incision at the neck and inserts a thin and flexible tube through the neck’s jugular vein and into the liver. This technique is used for people with blood disorders.
- Laparoscopic: This method involves the use of a laparoscope that collects the sample through a small incision in the abdomen.
The types of anaesthesia your doctor uses depend on which type of liver biopsy is performed. During percutaneous and trans jugular biopsies, the doctor uses local anaesthesia which means the doctor numbs only the affected area.
However, the doctor uses general anaesthesia during laparoscopic, so you will be deep sleep during the entire procedure. Once the biopsy is completed, the doctor closes the incision with stitches and bandages.