Linksfield Clinic  011 640 7355 / 011 647 3445

Liver Biopsy

Liver Biopsy video –

What is a Liver Biopsy?

In a liver biopsy the doctor examines a small piece of tissue from your liver for signs of damage or disease. A special needle is used to remove the tissue from the liver. The doctor decides to do a liver biopsy after tests suggest that the liver does not work properly. An X-ray could suggest that the liver is swollen. Looking at liver tissue itself is the best way to determine whether the liver is healthy or what is causing it to be damaged.

A needle is put into the liver through the abdominal or chest wall. A piece of liver tissue is removed through the needle and sent to pathology for testing. More than one piece of liver tissue may be required.

The procedure is usually done using local anaesthetic to numb the area. You may be given some medication to help you relax.

Prior to your procedure
  • Please confirm your booking five days prior to your procedure. Phone: 011 640 7355/011 647 3445  (Monday to Friday between 8.00am to 4.30 pm)
  • Discuss the following with your doctor:
    • whether you should adjust any of your usual medications before the procedure (e.g. aspirin, anti-coagulant medications, diabetic medication and anti-inflammatory medications). You will require a blood test prior to your procedure to ensure your blood clotting times are normal.
    • any drug allergies you may have
    • if you have any major diseases such as a heart or lung condition, diabetes or epilepsy etc that may require special attention during the procedure.
  • Arrange for someone to take you home after the procedure. Please bring their contact details to hospital with you (we do not have waiting areas for friends and relatives in the unit).
  • It is important that you fast (have nothing to eat or drink) six hours prior to your arrival time.

On the day of your procedure please bring your
  • Medical aid card
  • completed registration form
  • medications that you may need to take after your procedure (e.g aspirin, iron, diabetic medications, anti-inflammatory medications).

Please do not bring any valuables or wear any jewellery when you come to hospital.

On arrival to Linksfield Clinic, please report to the Main Reception at the ground level

What to expect during your liver biopsy

Liver biopsy is considered minor surgery, and therefore is done in a hospital. For the biopsy, you will lie on a hospital bed on your back with your right hand above your head. After marking the outline of your liver and injecting a local anaesthetic to numb the area, the physician will make a small incision in your right side near your rib cage, then insert the biopsy needle and retrieve a sample of liver tissue. In some cases, the doctor may use an ultrasound image of the liver to help guide the needle to a specific spot. It is important to lie very still during the procedure. The doctor will ask you to hold your breath for 5 to 10 seconds while he or she inserts the needle. You may feel pressure and a dull pain. The entire procedure takes about 20 minutes.

After your procedure

The nurse will monitor your vital signs and level of pain. You will be monitored for a minimum of six hours after your procedure, while lying in bed.

You may feel pain in your right shoulder which is referred pain. This pain is caused by irritation of the diaphragm muscle and should disappear within a few hours or days. If the pain is persistent your condition will be assessed and pain relief will be provided.

Post procedure information

  1. Please stay in the company of a responsible adult within the region for 24 hours.
  2. Do not drive or operate any heavy machinery.
  3. Do not consume alcohol for the remainder for the day.
  4. Do not drive a car, motorcycle or ride a bicycle.
  5. Do not sign any legal documents or make any important decisions.
  6. Do not engage in sports or heavy lifting for 48 hours.
  7. Keep dressing on for 48 hours, then remove.