Liver Biopsy to Diagnose Liver Disease at Mercy

Institute for Digestive Health and Liver Disease at Mercy - Baltimore, MD

The doctors of The Institute for Digestive Health & Liver Disease at Mercy specialize in liver and GI disorders. To help diagnose liver diseases, including cirrhosis, our doctors may perform a liver biopsy. 

What is a Liver Biopsy?
A liver biopsy is an outpatient procedure used to obtain a sample of liver tissue for diagnosis. Doctors use liver tissue samples collected during a liver biopsy to diagnose and determine the severity of liver disease.
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How is a Liver Biopsy performed?

There are three different types of liver biopsy: percutaneous, transjugular and laparoscopic. The three types of liver biopsy vary based on how the liver tissue sample is collected.

  • Percutaneous – Before a percutaneous liver biopsy, an area on the upper right abdomen is cleaned and numbed. Then, a needle is inserted in that area. Ultrasound is used to confirm the position of liver and to identify the best location to take biopsy. The needle is used to remove a small sample of liver tissue for analysis. 
  • Laparoscopic – Before a laparoscopic liver biopsy, anesthesia will be administered. During the procedure, a small incision is made in the area of the abdomen. A laparoscope (a thin, tube-like instrument) is then inserted into the incision and a biopsy needle is inserted through the laparoscope into the liver to collect tissue samples. 
  • Transjugular – A transjugular liver biopsy is performed on an X-ray table. Before a transjugular liver biopsy, an area on the neck is cleaned and numbed. During the procedure, a catheter (wire-like tube) is inserted through a small incision on the neck. The catheter is then threaded down to the liver, and a dye is injected to confirm the right location within the liver. A needle is then threaded through the catheter to collect a tissue sample. 

Liver biopsies are performed in Mercy’s state-of-the-art Bunting Endoscopy suite. 

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When is a Liver Biopsy recommended?

A liver biopsy may be recommended if liver disease is suspected, and the cause and severity is not known. In some cases FibroScan, a non-invasive test, can be used in place of a liver biopsy to assess the severity of fibrosis (scar tissue) in the liver.

A liver biopsy can be used to diagnose liver diseases and problems such as: