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What should you expect from a liver biopsy procedure?

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Quick Answer

A standard liver biopsy takes only five minutes and requires the doctor to insert a fine needle into a small abdominal incision in order to extract a minute sample of liver tissue, explains WebMD. A laparoscopic procedure is used to gather tissue from specific areas of the liver.

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Full Answer

When fluid is present in the abdomen, or if patients have blood-clotting conditions, a catheter is inserted into a neck vein and guided to the liver where a biopsy needle is inserted into the catheter to obtain the tissue sample, states WebMD. This is called a transvenous biopsy. After the biopsy, individuals spend four hours under observation in a recovery room receiving pain medication if discomfort occurs. A pathologist analyzes the liver tissue, and the patient receives the results from his physician several days later.

Aspirin products and anti-inflammatory drugs are avoided for one week after the biopsy, notes WebMD. Acetaminophen is permitted. Heavy physical exertion and lifting are also prohibited for the week following the procedure.

Liver biopsies are used to diagnose unexplained jaundice or liver enlargement, abnormal results from a liver enzyme blood test, and suspicious findings on an imaging test, such as liver abnormalities spotted in an ultrasound or CT scan, reports WebMD. Biopsies are also useful to determine the degree of liver damage present and the most appropriate method of treatment.

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