Health Library
Liver Biopsy

What is a Liver Biopsy?

A liver biopsy is done to take a small sample of liver tissue to diagnose a new liver disease or changes in a known disease. If your child has liver disease, a biopsy may help to see how they are responding to the medical treatment.

The doctor or nurse will explain the procedure to you and your child.

Preparing Your Child for the Liver 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.
  • Your child will have blood tests done a few days before or the morning of the biopsy. We may also perform a liver ultrasound.

When You Come to the Hospital

  • The doctor performing the liver biopsy will explain the procedure and answer any questions you may have.
  • Before the liver biopsy, your child will get medicine so they feel no pain or anxiety. The doctor (called an anesthesiologist) who gives the “sleepy medicine” to your child will talk with you about:
  • Your child’s medical history, including current medicines
  • Your child’s experience with anesthesia
  • Most of the time, children receive fluids with electrolytes (IV fluids) through the IV (intravenous) line during the biopsy.

Liver Biopsy Procedure

  • Your child is asleep with anesthesia and will never be alone during the liver biopsy. There are two different ways to give the anesthesia:
    • The medicine is given through an IV.
    • The child breathes gas through a mask or may have a special breathing tube.
  • After your child is sedated, an ultrasound is used to find the best biopsy site. We clean the area with an antibacterial soap and give numbing medicine at the biopsy site.
  • Once the area is numb, the doctor inserts a needle through the skin and into the liver, where they take a small piece of liver tissue.
  • After the biopsy is done, a small "pressure" dressing is put over the site and your child is awakened.

After the Liver Biopsy

  • After the biopsy, your child stays in the treatment room or recovery area until they are fully awake. Once awake, your child returns to their room for observation.
  • You child needs to stay in bed and lie on their right side or back for six hours, depending on the site of the biopsy. This helps reduce the risk of bleeding after the biopsy. If they need to use the bathroom during this time, the nurse will help them use a bedpan or urinal.
  • Staff checks on your child often during the first four hours after the biopsy. Your child will wear a small device that checks their heart, breathing, and oxygen level for at least six hours after the biopsy.
  • Once the doctor gives the OK, your child can drink fluids when they are awake and stable. Your child can start back on a regular diet once they can take fluids without a problem.
  • The IV will stay in place for at least six hours after the biopsy. Once your child is eating and drinking well, we stop the IV fluids.
  • Your child can do quiet activities in the room for the rest of the day.
  • Please bring a few of your child's favorite books or games to the hospital.
  • There may be a chance that the child will get to go home the same day of the biopsy, but there are many factors that help make this decision. Please talk to the medical team about this option.
  • The child should avoid heavy lifting of 10 pounds or more and contact sports for five days after the liver biopsy.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor right away if your child:

  • Has severe pain
  • Has blood in stool
  • Is dizzy or lightheaded

Also call if you have any other concerns.

Getting the Results

Your child’s doctor will discuss the results with you. Results are usually available seven to 10 days after the liver biopsy.

Last Updated 03/2021