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Percutaneous Liver Biopsy


Percutaneous liver biopsy is a procedure to remove a small tissue sample from your liver. A healthcare provider will insert a needle through your skin in the upper right part of your abdomen. Samples will be sent to a lab for be tested to find the cause of or to help monitor your liver condition.


Before your procedure:

  • Informed consent is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.
  • An IV is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.
  • Blood transfusion: If your blood does not clot normally, you may need platelets or fresh frozen plasma (FFP) before your biopsy. Platelets and FFP are the parts of your blood that help your blood clot better. The blood products may be given through your IV. If you have more bleeding than expected, you also may need a transfusion after your biopsy.
  • Monitoring:
    • Heart monitor: This is also called an ECG or EKG. Sticky pads placed on your skin record your heart's electrical activity.
    • A pulse oximeter is a device that measures the amount of oxygen in your blood. A cord with a clip or sticky strip is placed on your finger, ear, or toe. The other end of the cord is hooked to a machine.
  • Local anesthesia: You may be given a shot of numbing medicine in your skin where the biopsy will be done. You may still feel pressure or pushing during your procedure. With local anesthesia, you will remain awake during the procedure.

During your procedure:

  • Your healthcare provider may mark the biopsy area by feeling for the right location with his hands. He will feel for your liver and certain rib spaces on the right side of your abdomen. He may use an ultrasound to mark the biopsy area on your skin. Ultrasound may be used to guide your healthcare provider during the entire procedure. A small incision will be made in your skin where the biopsy needle will be inserted.
  • You may be asked to breathe in and out and then to hold your breath while the biopsy is done. Your healthcare provider will insert the needle between or under your ribs. He will remove a small sample of your liver tissue through the needle. He may insert the needle more than once to get enough liver tissue. You may hear a clicking sound as the needle takes the tissue sample. You may feel some pressure or pain in your abdomen or right shoulder during the procedure. A healthcare provider will hold pressure on the biopsy area to stop any bleeding. Once the bleeding has stopped, a bandage will be placed on your skin over the biopsy site.

After your procedure:

You will be taken to a room to rest after your procedure. You may need to lie on your right side for 1 to 2 hours after your biopsy. You may have something placed under your right side to put pressure on the area where the biopsy was done. You will then need to lie on your back for up to 4 more hours. Healthcare providers also may have you sit up in a chair for a short time. Do not try to change position or get out of bed before your healthcare provider says it is okay.

  • Monitoring: Healthcare providers will continue to monitor your vital signs. An ultrasound may be done to check for bleeding or fluid in your abdomen after the procedure. When healthcare providers see that you are not having any problems, you may be able to go home.
  • Pain medicine: You may be given a prescription medicine to decrease pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you ask for more medicine.


  • You may have an allergic response to the medicine used during your procedure. During your biopsy, the needle may break while in your skin. Nearby organs and blood vessels may be damaged. Your lung may collapse, making it hard for you to breathe. After your biopsy, you may have pain in the area where the biopsy was done, and in your right shoulder. You may have nausea, vomiting, weakness, and dizziness. You may bruise or have swelling in your abdomen.
  • The biopsy area may bleed or become infected. An abscess (pus pocket) may form in your liver, or you may get an infection in your blood or abdomen. You may need a blood transfusion if you are bleeding inside your abdomen. If you lose large amounts of blood, you may need surgery to stop the bleeding. Severe blood loss may be life-threatening.
  • If you do not have the percutaneous liver biopsy, you may not learn the cause of your symptoms. You may not learn if you have a serious liver disease, such as hepatitis or cancer. If you have a transplanted liver, you will not know if your body is rejecting it. Your liver disease may get worse. If you have cancer, it may grow and spread to other areas of your body. These conditions may become life-threatening.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.