A medical procedure that surgically removes a small piece of liver tissue that is analyzed in a laboratory for signs of damage or disease is called a liver biopsy. If your blood tests or imaging tests suggest you might have a liver problem, your doctor may order a liver biopsy.

To detect the presence of abnormal cells like cancer cells in your liver, a liver biopsy is usually recommended and also to evaluate or to determine the severity of liver disease processes like cirrhosis. Liver biopsies also act as a guide for treatment decisions.

Our liver produces the enzymes and proteins that are important for our body’s essential metabolic processes and is also a vital organ for removing contaminants in our blood. The liver also stores essential vitamins and nutrients that our body uses and helps fight infections.

Having liver problems can make you profoundly ill, or in the worst case, death.


The three types of liver biopsies are:

  • Percutaneous liver biopsy

This involves injecting you with local anesthetic and inserting a fine needle that is inserted in your liver from the abdomen separating a small amount of liver tissue.

  • Laparoscopic liver biopsy.

You will be injected with a general anesthetic. A tiny cut or incision in your skin is made so that a thin, lighted tube (laparoscope) can be inserted through. A laparoscope contains a small video camera so that your doctor has a clear vision of the inside of your abdomen in a monitor. Then, a small needle is used to cut and remove a small number of liver tissue samples in another tube to be examined.

  • Transvenous or Transjugular

If you have fluids or blood-clotting problems in your belly, a transjugular liver biopsy may be needed. This involves giving you local anesthetic in your neck. A cut is made into a vein, and a tube will be inserted in your neck down to your liver. A contrast dye will be put into the tube and makes a series of X-ray images. The dye then makes the vein visible and allows the doctor to see more clearly the hepatic vein on the X-rays. Then a fine biopsy needle will be inserted into the tube, and the liver tissue samples are removed.

Then, the tube will be removed carefully, and the incision that has been made will be covered with bandage.


You may undergo a liver biopsy if you have:

  • A liver test that shows unexplainable results or an abnormal liver test results
  • A tumor or other abnormalities in your liver as suggest by imaging tests
  • Continuing fevers that are unexplainable


A liver biopsy will be used to diagnose or monitor many types of liver disease; these liver diseases that require liver biopsy include:

  • Autoimmune hepatitis
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (FLD)
  • Alcoholic liver disease
  • Chronic hepatitis (B or C)
  • Hemochromatosis
  • Cirrhosis 
  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis
  • Wilson’s disease


After the procedure, the treatment is based on what type of liver biopsy procedure has been done to you, but commonly, the incision that is made is closed with stitches and will be covered with bandages.

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