Liver Biopsy Overview
A liver biopsy is a procedure whereby small pieces of liver tissue are removed in order to be sent to a laboratory for examination. It is very helpful in the diagnosis of diseases that affect the liver.
There are several potential approaches to procuring tissue for a liver biopsy. These are discussed below.
Liver Biopsy Symptoms
Although their occurrence is rare, you should be familiar with the signs and symptoms of complications related to a liver biopsy. Liver biopsy is a routine procedure. However, emergency surgery to control severe bleeding or to repair accidental injury to surrounding organs and even death are well described complications of liver biopsy. The following list briefly describes the signs and symptoms of potential complications of liver biopsy.
- Fever: Development of a fever following a liver biopsy may indicate the presence of infection. It is best to check with your doctor.
- Pain, swelling, redness or discharge around the needle insertion sites or any incisions that were made: These are signs that a wound infection is present. You should see your doctor.
- Chest pain: This complaint should always be investigated. Call your doctor or emergency services immediately.
- Shortness of breath: Patients who develop shortness of breath should seek medical attention immediately.
- Dizziness or fainting: These are possible signs of blood loss and should prompt you to contact your doctor or emergency services immediately.
- Nausea or vomiting: Persistent nausea or vomiting needs attention to ensure that there are no intra-abdominal complications related to your liver biopsy.
- Worsening abdominal pain: This can be caused by bleeding, leakage of bile, or other problems that will need medical attention. Consult with your doctor as soon as possible.
- Abdominal swelling or bloating: Intestinal problems or internal bleeding can manifest as abdominal swelling or bloating. Patients experiencing this problem should call their doctor as soon as possible.
Exams and Tests
Your biopsy specimen will be sent for several tests. What types of tests are performed depends on the diagnosis your doctor is trying to make. Examples of some of the more common tests used to examine liver biopsy specimens include the following:
- Light microscopy with or without special stains
- Electron microscopy
- Bacterial cultures
- Virology testing
- Tumor markers
- Iron content analysis on liver biopsy to rule out hemochromatosis
Liver Biopsy Treatment
Depending on where your biopsy is performed (office or outpatient site, x-ray department, operating room) and the approach used (surgical vs. nonsurgical), one or more of the following treatment options will apply to you:
- Intravenous fluids
- Sedative drugs
- Pain killers
- Local, regional, or general anesthesia
- Antinausea drugs
- Supplemental oxygen
Following the procedure, you will be monitored until your doctor is satisfied with your recovery. Monitoring measures will include instruments that provide information about one or more of the following:
- Blood pressure
- Heart rate and rhythm
- Breathing rate
- Oxygen levels (saturation) in your bloodstream
- Urine output
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