Liver biopsy is a diagnostic procedure used to obtain a small amount of liver
tissue, which can be examined under a microscope to help identify the
cause or stage of liver disease.
The most common way a liver sample is obtained is by inserting a needle into
the liver for a fraction of a second. This can be done in the hospital
with a local anesthetic, and the patient may be sent home within 3-6
hours if there are no complications.
The physician determines the best site, depth, and angle of the needle puncture
by physical examination or ultrasound. The skin and area under the skin
is anaesthetized, and a needle is passed quickly into and out of the
liver. Approximately half of individuals have no pain afterwards, while
another half will experience brief localized pain that may spread to the
Some persons, however, have had to be hospitalized afterwards due to extreme
pain, shock or puncture of another organ. Many patients have commented
that taking an atavan before the procedure helped reduce the pain since
this drug will relax the internal muscles and prevent spasms.
Patients are monitored for several hours after a biopsy to make sure serious bleeding has not occurred. Some patients occasionally have a sudden drop in blood pressure after a biopsy that is caused by a “vagal” reflex and not by blood loss; this is caused by sudden irritation of the peritoneal membrane. The characteristics that distinguish this from a bleeding event are: 1) slow pulse rather than rapid, 2) sweating, and 3) nausea.