What is Liver Biopsy Procedure for Cancer?

When the initial tools of diagnosis like the blood test and X-ray imaging fail to find a disease,

liver biopsy procedure

is carried. It involves cutting and separating a suspected part of the organ and studying it under a powerful microscope. The technique reveals the stage of a dreadful ailment like cancer. Knowledge of the stage of any disease later guides its treatment. This article tries to gain further insight on this subject.

How the Liver Biopsy Procedure is Performed?

The procedure involves insertion of a needle to take some tissues of the organ out for examination. There are three types of this procedure. They differ from each other in the manner in which the needle is inserted to take the tissues out. These procedures are:


It is the most common technique to collect liver tissue samples. It is aided by imaging techniques like ultrasound and computer tomography scans. Some professionals are adept at locating the organ with precision by tapping the abdomen. After locating the liver, a hollow needle is inserted into it through the abdomen.

An anesthesia or sedative is given prior to the procedure. This reduces the pain which the patient might experience while the doctor makes a small cut in the abdomen to insert the needle. Patient has to exhale and hold the breath for a while. During this time, the doctor collects the sample. This process might be repeated several times to collect multiple samples.

For two hours the patient lies on the right side to reduce bleeding complication.The patient is monitored for 2-4 hours more before he/she is sent home.


This procedure is carried out when excess fluid is filled in the abdomen or clotting of the blood takes place. The patient is made to lie on an x-ray table on the back. A local anesthesia is given on one side of the neck. A small cut is made in the region to allow a special tube called sheath to be inserted.

Light contrasting materials are sent through this tube. They get illuminated when x-rays fall on them. In this way, the doctor is guided to thread a needle through this tube into the veins of the liver. Samples are collected quickly on insertion. Multiple insertions provide several samples. The sheath is removed and the cut in the neck is bandaged. The patient is monitored for 4-6 hours after this procedure.

Laparoscopic Liver Biopsy Procedure for Cancer:

It is carried out when the risk of spreading of the cancer in liver is high. Here samples from different parts of the liver are collected. This technique rules out the requirement of making large cuts. The patient is given sedatives or anesthesia and made to lie on an X-ray table. A small cut is made in the abdomen below the rib-cage.

Cannula is a flexible tube inserted into the abdomen to fill it with gas. This provides the doctor space to move around the instruments of diagnosis. A biopsy needle is inserted into the liver through the tube. One end of it contains a small camera which guides the doctor while inserting the needle precisely into the liver. The sample is quickly withdrawn.

Excessive bleeding can be spotted early by the camera and treated using a probe. The cannula is removed later and the cut is closed with dissolvable stitches. The patient is sent home after few hours of monitoring.


The collected sample is strained in the laboratory and studied by placing under powerful microscopes. The details of the sample are thus revealed. It takes few days for the report to be out.


It takes two to three days to resume normal life. Strenuous activities should be avoided along with exercise. Soreness at the site of cut might take a week’s time to heal. The doctor should be consulted before taking any pain medication during this phase.

Preparation for the Biopsy Test of Liver:

The patient should mention the medical history and the medications taken one week prior to this test. Some of the drugs asked to discontinue are:

  • NSAIDs
  • High blood pressure pills
  • Blood thinners
  • Antibiotics
  • Diabetes medications
  • Pills for asthma
  • Supplements of diet

Blood test of the patient is carried out to know its ability to clot. If the risk is high, a medication called clotting factor concentrates is prescribed. The person cannot eat eight hours prior to the test. Driving is not allowed for 12 hours after it.

Significance of the Laparoscopic Liver Biopsy Procedure in Cancer Treatment:

The symptoms of liver cancer are notorious of remaining later until later stages of the disease. While the imaging techniques can accidently reveal the development of the disease, it is confirmed only through biopsy.

There are two types of liver cancer, namely, hepatocellular carcinoma and cholangiocarcinoma. Studying the collected suspicious cells of liver under powerful microscope can help the health care professionals make out the type of the cancer and its stage. This information is vital for the doctors in designing a treatment process.

The prognosis of this cancer is very poor as most of the cases are diagnosed in the advanced stage. Biopsy also assists in revealing the progress made by the treatment given to the patient.


According to the National Cancer Institute, 24,120 people were diagnosed with this cancer in the United States in 2010. 18,910 people lost their lives owing to this ailment.

Further research to diagnose the cancer early is underway. It can be hoped that latest developments in the coming days would make

liver biopsy procedure

for cancer completely redundant.

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