Liver biopsies may be ordered when patients have unexplained liver tests, chronic hepatitis C or B and following liver transplantation. Biopsies are also done if a CT or ultrasound scan reveals a mass in the liver.
The interventional radiologists at Marin General Hospital perform liver biopsies. Patients receive a mild sedative via an intravenous line before the procedure. Local anesthetic is then injected into the skin overlying the liver. Using an ultrasound machine, or sometimes a CT scanner, as a guide, the radiologist places the biopsy needle into the liver, removes a tiny piece of tissue and withdraws the needle. The risks of liver biopsy are small but include bleeding from the liver and damage to adjacent organs. Patients are observed in the hospital for three to four hours following liver biopsy. Blood tests to check for potential bleeding problems are required within seven days before a liver biopsy. Results from a liver biopsy are typically available within ten days.