biopsy is considered to be a very useful method for establishing the extent of
liver inflammation and any possible scarring of liver tissue (degree of
fibrosis).1 In a biopsy, tissue is removed
directly from the liver under a local anaesthetic and examined using a
microscope. For the majority of people living with hepatitis C signs of chronic
inflammation can be detected in the tissue. It is an invasive (and therefore a
tissue-injuring) method which is not entirely risk-free and it is also painful
for many people. Complications, such as bleeding, can occur in a small number
of people undergoing this procedure.
three different methods of doing a liver biopsy:
percutaneous, laparoscopic, and transvenous.
percutaneous liver biopsy, a local anaesthetic is given to numb the area and a
needle is inserted through an incision into the right side to retrieve the
tissue sample. An ultrasound image may be used to guide insertion. There may be
a sensation of pressure and dull pain during and after the procedure.
A small sample of
tissue removed from the body and examined for signs of disease. A liver biopsy
is the most reliable way of assessing the extent of liver scarring and
Scarring of the liver
– the development of hard, fibrous tissue. See also ‘cirrhosis’, which is more
medical terms, going inside the body.
laparoscopic biopsy involves placing a tube (the laparoscope) through an
abdominal incision. The laparoscope sends images to a monitor that is used by
the doctor to guide removal of tissue samples.
transvenous biopsy is done by inserting a catheter (tube) into a vein in the
neck and guiding it to the liver. A needle then goes into the catheter to
remove the tissue sample from the liver. This technique is usually employed
when the patient may have blood clotting problems or abdominal fluid.
is usually required for eight to ten hours before the procedure.
Liver biopsy is considered minor surgery, so it is usually done at a hospital
on an outpatient basis. Afterwards, the patient needs to lie still for one
to two hours before leaving for home. The next eight to twelve hours
should be spent in bed. It takes about a week for the incision and the
liver to heal and physical exertion should be avoided during that time.