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Percutaneous Liver Biopsy

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 3, 2022.

What do I need to know about a percutaneous liver biopsy (PLB)?

A PLB is a procedure to remove a sample of tissue from your liver. The sample can be sent to a lab and tested for liver disease, cancer, or infection.

How do I prepare for a PLB?

  • Your healthcare provider will talk to you about how to prepare for your procedure. You may need to have your blood tested before the procedure. A blood test can check how well your blood clots. Your blood needs to clot correctly to prevent heavy bleeding during the procedure.
  • The provider may tell you not to eat or drink anything for 6 to 8 hours before your procedure. He or she will tell you what medicines to take or not take on the day of your procedure. You may need to stop taking blood thinners, NSAIDs, or aspirin 3 to 7 days before your procedure.
  • Before the procedure you may be given an antibiotic to help prevent a bacterial infection. Tell your healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to an antibiotic. During the procedure you may be given contrast liquid to help your liver show up better in pictures. Tell your healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid.
  • Arrange for someone to drive you home and stay with you for 24 hours after the procedure. This person can help you around the house and watch you for any problems.

What will happen during a PLB?

  • You may be given local anesthesia to numb the biopsy site. With local anesthesia, you may still feel pressure or pushing during the procedure, but you should not feel any pain. You may also be given IV sedation to help you feel relaxed during the procedure. If you feel pain during the procedure, your healthcare provider will give you IV pain medicine.
  • Your healthcare provider will make a small cut in your right upper abdomen. He or she will insert a needle through the cut. Ultrasound or CT pictures may be used to help your provider find the correct area. When the needle is in the correct position, your healthcare provider will take a sample of your liver. The needle will be removed and pressure will be applied to the biopsy site to stop bleeding. A bandage will be placed over your biopsy site.

What will happen after a PLB?

Healthcare providers will monitor your vital signs and check for bleeding at your biopsy site. You will need to lie on your right side for 1 to 2 hours. Do not get out of bed until your healthcare provider says it is okay. You may be able to go home in 4 to 6 hours, or you may need to spend a night in the hospital. You may have pain and bruising at the biopsy site. You may also have pain in your right shoulder. These symptoms should get better in 48 to 72 hours.

What are the risks of a PLB?

You may bleed more than expected or get an infection. The biopsy needle may make a hole in your lung, gallbladder, or kidney. You may need other procedures to treat these problems.

Care Agreement

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 healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

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