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Liver Biopsy

A liver biopsy is a minor surgical procedure done in the hospital that involves taking a very small sample of your liver to confirm a diagnosis of liver cancer. Bleeding after a liver biopsy can be life-threatening in people with cirrhosis. Because their liver is damaged, they cannot clot blood normally, which can result in bleeding problems. Although a liver biopsy itself takes only minutes, the entire process can take several hours. After the procedure, patients must lay on their right side for 4 to 6 hours to prevent any bleeding from the liver biopsy site.

Types of Liver Biopsy

Percutaneous needle biopsy

This is the most common type of liver biopsy. The procedure involves numbing an area on the right ribcage, making a tiny cut, and then inserting a thin needle between the ribs to remove a small tissue sample (½-inch) from the liver.

Laparoscopic biopsy

This procedure removes tissue samples from specific parts of the liver. A special tube called a laparoscope is inserted through a small cut in the abdomen (belly). The laparoscope sends images of the liver to a computer screen. These images guide the doctor in removing tissue samples from one or more parts of the liver.

Transvenous biopsy

This procedure is used when patients have blood-clotting problems or fluid in the abdomen. It involves placing a biopsy needle inside a tube called a catheter, which is inserted into a vein in the neck and then guided into the liver to remove a tissue sample.

Additional Information

For more information about a liver biopsy, visit the National Institutes of Health (NIH) website.