A liver biopsy is a procedure that is intended to obtain a small sample or piece of the liver so it can be examined under the microscope. The purpose for the biopsy is for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Establish the presence (or absence) of disease entity in the context of elevated liver enzymes undiagnosed by blood tests
  • Establish the nature of an incidental liver lesion (a mass or a tumor) that is seen on liver imaging tests (ultrasound or CT scan), with or without abnormal liver enzymes
  • Assess the degree of liver damage (staging) in a previously diagnosed liver disease such as hepatitis C or fatty liver disease.

Once the above is achieved, a specific treatment can be initiated accordingly, if applicable.

All three main types of liver biopsy remove liver tissue with a needle that has a built-in automatic mechanism (that is, after needle insertion, you will hear clicking sound as the needle removes a tissue sample); however, each takes a different approach to needle insertion. Liver biopsy can be performed through the skin (percutaneous route), the jugular vein in the right side of the neck (transjugular route), and during an abdominal surgery (laparoscopic route).