Liver Biopsy

A liver biopsy is done to examine the tissue of the liver for a new disease or changes in a known disease. If your child is known to have liver disease, a biopsy may help to see how he or she is responding to the medical treatment.

The nurse, doctor and/or Child Life staff will explain the test to you and your child.

Your child will be monitored closely after biopsy. Most children spend one night in the hospital after the biopsy.

While You Are at Home

  • Your child will have special eating and drinking instructions.  We will tell you about this when you make the appointment.
  • If your child takes medicine in the morning, ask the doctor if it is OK to take it before the biopsy and when to do so.

When You Come to the Hospital 

  • The morning of the biopsy, your child will have an intravenous (IV) line placed.  Your child will also have blood tests done a few days before or the morning of the biopsy.  Sometimes a liver ultrasound will also be obtained. Most of the time, your child will be given fluids with electrolytes (IV fluids) through the intravenous (IV) line.
  • Before the liver biopsy, the doctor (called an anesthesiologist) who gives the “sleepy medicine” to your child will talk with you.  You will answer questions about:
    • Your child’s medical history
    • Medications your child is taking
    • Any other experiences with anesthesia

Liver biopsies are done in a treatment room, in radiology or in the operating room. The doctor or nurses will tell you where the biopsy will take place before it is scheduled.

Your child will get general anesthesia before the liver biopsy begins. There are two different ways to give the anesthesia:

  • The medication is given through an IV. 
  • The child may breathe gas through a mask.

Anesthesia will help your child fall asleep quickly. Once your child is asleep, the airway is kept open with a breathing tube. Your child will never be alone and is watched closely during the liver biopsy.  After your child is sedated, the doctor will perform the biopsy.

  • The biopsy site is identified by the doctor on your child’s belly or right side, and is cleaned with an antibacterial soap.
  • Numbing medicine is given at the biopsy site.
  • Once the area is numb, the doctor will insert a needle through the skin and into the liver.
  • A very small piece of liver tissue is taken.
  • A small "pressure" dressing is put over the site.
  • Your child should recover quickly from anesthesia.
  • After the biopsy your child will stay in the treatment room or recovery area until awake.  Once awake, your child may return to his or her room.
  • Your child will need to lie on his / her right side or back for six hours, depending on the site of the biopsy.
  • Being in bed will reduce the risk of bleeding after the biopsy. Your child will need to stay in bed for six hours after the biopsy.  If your child needs to use the bathroom during this time, the nurse will help to use a bedpan or urinal.
  • Staff will check your child's temperature, heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen level often for the first four hours after the biopsy. Your child will remain attached to a device that monitors heart rate, breathing rate, and oxygen level for at least six hours after the biopsy.
  • Your child can drink fluids when he or she is awake, stable and the doctor has approved it. Your child can start back on a regular diet once he or she can take fluids without a problem.
  • Once your child is eating and drinking well, the fluids with electrolytes (IV fluids) will be discontinued. The IV will stay in place for at least six hours after the biopsy.
  • Your child can do quiet activities in the room for the rest of the day.
  • Bring a few of your child's favorite books or games to the hospital.
  • Call the Child Life Department for other toys, games, movies or books.

Your child’s doctor will discuss the results with you and your family.

Last Updated 12/2013