What is a liver biopsy?
A liver biopsy is a procedure that involves taking a small piece of liver tissue for examination with a microscope for signs of damage or disease. The three types of liver biopsy are the following:
- Percutaneous biopsy—the most common type of liver biopsy—involves inserting a hollow needle through the abdomen into the liver. The abdomen is the area between the chest and hips.
- Transvenous biopsy involves making a small incision in the neck and inserting a needle through a hollow tube called a sheath through the jugular vein to the liver.
- Laparoscopic biopsy involves inserting a laparoscope, a thin tube with a tiny video camera attached, through a small incision to look inside the body to view the surface of organs. The health care provider will insert a needle through a plastic, tubelike instrument called a cannula to remove the liver tissue sample.
What is the liver and what does it do?
The liver is the body’s largest internal organ. The liver is called the body’s metabolic factory because of the important role it plays in metabolism—the way cells change food into energy after food is digested and absorbed into the blood. The liver has many functions, including
- taking up, storing, and processing nutrients from food—including fat, sugar, and protein—and delivering them to the rest of the body when needed
- making new proteins, such as clotting factors and immune factors
- producing bile, which helps the body absorb fats, cholesterol, and fat-soluble vitamins
- removing waste products the kidneys cannot remove, such as fats, cholesterol, toxins, and medications
A healthy liver is necessary for survival. The liver can regenerate most of its own cells when they become damaged.