Is a Liver Biopsy Procedure Painful?


During a percutaneous liver biopsy, the most common liver biopsy technique, the doctor injects a local anesthetic that may cause a brief stinging sensation, as stated by Johns Hopkins Medicine. Patients may also feel a sense of pressure or shoulder discomfort when the biopsy needle is inserted into the liver.

Around 25 percent of liver biopsy patients experience pain immediately after the procedure that may last five to 20 minutes, and close to 1 percent of patients experience pain that lasts one to seven days, according to California Pacific Medical Center. Abdominal or right chest pain occurs in approximately 20 percent of liver biopsies with pain generally resolving within two hours. A small number of patients may also experience long-term pain in the liver or upper abdomen, and rare instances of severe pain may require the patent to remain in the hospital for the administration of pain medications.

On the day of a liver biopsy, the patient changes into a hospital gown and lies down with the right hand placed under the head, as stated by MedicineNet. The doctor may administer a mild sedative before injecting the anesthetic and making a small incision on the upper abdomen. He then inserts a needle to take a sample of liver tissue. The whole process takes around five minutes. The doctor may prescribe a pain medication if necessary, but patients must avoid taking aspirin or anti-inflammatory drugs for one week after the procedure.