Liver biopsy, not so bad: I want to... - British Liver Trust

British Liver Trust
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Liver biopsy, not so bad


I want to share my experience of having a liver biopsy to maybe help a few people. I know I was terrified.

Let me start by saying I am in the states, New Jersey. Some things could be slightly different as far as how long they keep you in recovery, things like that.

I always assumed they would go through my ribs on the side of my body. I always assumed I would be given " twilight sedation". I always assumed I would lay for up to 4 hours unable to even go to the toilet. None of these things happened!

After I checked in to hospital I was taken to a room and told to change. I was told to leave my pants, and sneakers on ( I would be half ready to get out of there soon as I could, lol) The nurse talked to me, asked a few questions. By 10am I was on my way to have the biopsy. Long story short they did a ultrasound and said he would do the biopsy from the front and explained everything to me.

I was given a mild sedative in my I.v., the doctor marked the spot and then gave me the lidocaine, which was not too bad. He made just a nic my skin and put the biopsy needle about a finger length above my belly button.

All along I thought they go between the ribs, which can be more uncomfortable.

I only had a slight discomfort as the needle passed, he did 3 passes.

Honestly, it was a slight discomfort. The nurse had to hold pressure for 10 minutes, this was uncomfortable .

After this they took me to recovery where I lay for 2 hours. My family stayed with me, even brought me coffee! I was able to eat some toast.

Overall it was okay. Do I want to do it again? No, but I won't be a basket case next time.

Now I await the results. Will it prove to be AIH? I don't know but I am nervous.

So ask your doctor everything you want to know about the biopsy so you know exactly what to expect.

I am happy this is behind me.

19 Replies

That's great, I am a caregiver for my father in law and we are still waiting on his lab results because he is refusing to have a biopsy. I mention that in my early post. He first said he was afraid he might get an infection and then he said, he heard it is painful. later, i find out that he doesn't want a biopsy done because of his insurance. He stated if the biopsy says his liver issues are due to alcohol they will drop him from coverage. I have told him that many say that the biopsy only tells if you have liver damage not what you did to get it. who knows, when he gets his labwork back maybe that will make him get a biopsy without all the fear.

Souppie in reply to Hidden


I understand his fear ,speak to the doctor and have them explain exactly how the procedure will go.

Ask about how they will retrieve the tissue ( liver) from the front or between the ribs. They were able to do my biopsy from the front and I understand it's better this way.

Either way he should not stress. Everyone says it's not a big deal either way.

I stressed all for NOT. Tell him that. I was terrified for nothing.

Best of luck to you, Karen

Hidden in reply to Souppie

Thanks for responding, another question..he is also concerned about them dropping him fo his insurance if the biopsy says he is having liver problems due to alcohol..we are in the USA and some insurance companies will drop you if you cause the problem. Does a biopsy by looking at the tissue tell how you got the disease?

Souppie in reply to Hidden

To be honest about the insurance, it would not surprise me if they dropped him. This is the great U.S of A right? If you are an alcoholic you can not get transplant either.

If he is on medicare or medicad then I would not worry. Either way he has to do what he has to do right?

,I wish him all the best. Keep me updated.

redeyes2 in reply to Hidden

sophia2960 they can tell by bloodwork, if they take the tests that will show that. I found out in my labs they checked me for it. I had told dr I hadn't drank in years.... guess he had to verify. (also in the USA)



you can get a transplant in the USA but you must abstain from alcohol for 6 months. My question to you and you might not know..can they tell with a biopsy how you got the liver disease...that is his concern because if it says due to alcohol they will drop him.

Souppie in reply to Hidden

I would say no, but...They can tell the condition of the liver. They look for different things when doing a biopsy.

I would think between blood work and biopsy a doctor could figure out if someone drinks to much. And to be honest I would think you would need to be honest with the doctor if you are very sick with the liver.

I totally understand the fear with the insurance. Is he on medicare or medicaid? If so I would not worry then, he will not be dropped from either one of those programs. How old is he? You never explained about his insurance or his age so hard to really give my thoughts. Private insurance, yes I would worry!

Sorry it took so long to get back to you.


Hidden in reply to Souppie

he is 61 and it is private insurance so that's why he is so worried about taking so many tests especially a biopsy. Such a shame he can't be honest but in America, you can lose your insurance. He will only have a biopsy if it doesn't tell how you got the liver disease. He stated, he just can't have it in his medical records. All of his other labs were normal..his alt 18 ast 17 albumins 4.8 and alk 57..but the GGT have come back high over 200. He has now stopped drinking wine but now he is developing high blood pressure and very low MCH which showing signs of anemia. He doesn't have internal bleeding so the anemia came on quickly which i have heard in his age group a sign of liver disease.

AyrshireK in reply to Hidden

I still don't know what the rush is to carry out a biopsy. Without obvious liver symptoms and without elevated liver inflammation levels I don't know what doctor wants to achieve by doing a biopsy which is an invasive procedure not without risk. A scan either ultrasound, fibroscan or CT scan would normally be first port of call before sticking a needle in the liver.

A scan would also confirm whether this bloating your father in law has is or isn't ascites.

I'd push for a scan before the biopsy and if the scan shows anything untoward then biopsy might then be indicated.

The GGT might go down with the reduction in booze.


Hidden in reply to AyrshireK

thanks, katie,

We now have an appointment with another doctor, I made the appointment because our neighbor said the same thing you are saying. Sorry, I am learning as much as I can but I do rely on people like you to make sense of things. I don't know if his push was due to him having private insurance, I just don't know. Hopefully, his GGT will go down but that doctor stated it takes almost a year to decrease GGT levels but I don't really believe him because I have read that many people on this site GGT went down after stopping the alcohol. Wish us luck, with the next doctor...we go on Friday. thanks

Souppie in reply to Hidden

Well, I am a little lost. You say he stopped drinking 🍷 wine which I guess is good if you have liver problems. Drinking wine, or having a Glass of wine with dinner is not something to be ashamed of or hide.

My grandmother drank a half glass of red wine every night for 40 years. She died at 92 from old age.

I agree 100 percent about not rushing into a liver biopsy, however it seems the normal way this process goes is doctor visit, exam, blood work, scans like ultrasound and CT. After all this the doctor will say biopsy if he thinks some one has issues with the liver.

Your other option is a second opinion. Listen, I saw 4 doctors before I would agree to biopsy. 2 GI doc's and 2 rhemotogist ( can not ispell that). I went kicking and screaming to the biopsy!

You are doing the right thing by educating yourself on all of this. In the end if it looks like liver disease he will have no choice but to go for biopsy. As I said there is no crime in having some wine. Or is he really a person that drinks way to much?

My LFT's came up once all bad! Plus my WBC's and platelets and my immuglobulin M was off the charts, over 2,000. My spleen and liver are enlarged and my belly looks big and bloated and I do not have fluid at all.

You can have perfect LFT's and still have bad liver disease.

Does your father-in-law work? Own a home? Have money?

I ask because it matters if he lost private insurance, what his Eligibility would as far as medicare or medicad. Of course Medicaid you can not have money.

Keep me updated. I wish you and your family all the best.

Hidden in reply to Souppie

Yes, he stopped drinking but he was drinking about 3-4 large glasses of wine every day, that is a bottle of wine each day. He had no problems with stopping and had been drinking the wine for over 30 years. He does have a house..he has taken time off from work during this process. He isn't old enough for Medicare and wouldn't qualify for Medicaid. His doctor checked his spleen in the office but didn't say it was enlarged. His WBC is low but normal 4.9 (3.8-10.8)..his platelets are normal also at 279(140-400)..he really never drank anything hard liquor...only the cheap wine(lol).

He is really sick today and only eating soup. We are going to another doctor on Friday. I know you can have normal LTF's but I think he is aking his self-sick and me too worrying about everything. I just don't think his labs could be that good and he has that big of a problem. He has been off the wine and I am sure when we see the new doc on Friday they will do more labs. Who knows after being off of the wine his GGT might improve because all other labs are great.

Have you received your results back from your biopsy? if so, i hope you can turn it around.

Thanks, I suspect I may be having one in the future so this is reassuring. Tim

Hidden in reply to tim90125water

hi tim

I just read your symptoms before being diagnosed. My father in law just got his test results today his GGT was over 200 but all of his other labs were normal. He is now having very cold feet even when it is warm, where you diagnosed with anemia? I asked that question because now his doctor is asking him to come in Monday for testing for anemia. I don't know if he has ascites but the top of his belly is big even without eating. I felt it and it is hard when he is standing but not hard when he is lying down. Did you have fluid? Someone told him if you can suck in your swollen belly its not ascites. I hope you stopped drinking because being in the states the only way you can have a transplant is to stop drinking..good luck

tim90125water in reply to Hidden

Hi Sophia, my limbs were cold but it was linked to the lack of blood due to the bleed. I had lost a lot so blood was heading to brain and heart not extremities, so once transfused and salined my feet warmed up!. My fluid was around my ankles plus restricted breathing which was due to ascities. I stopped drinking as soon as diagnosed and have been sober for 6 months now and will be for life. Fluid has now gone without drains. My main symptom now is fatigue but it is manageable.

Good luck, fortunately I am in the UK with the NHS, but they would not transplant to my knowledge if you still drink. My consultant views not drinking as the single best thing you can do, my wife agrees with him and so do I considering the alternative.


It really was nothing, I stressed for months I was so afraid. I had no pain after, just a slight bruise and just a tiny nick in my skin.

Good luck

redeyes2 in reply to Souppie

I just had one last month and am so glad I did. Not as bad as we had imagined and to my relief... no cirrhosis, however stage 2 fibrosis. I'll take that over what I thought I was going to hear. This is great because last year I had a Fibro-scan that showed possible cirrhosis in some areas of the liver. My surgery was done in front, too. I actually got more skin damage from the band aid adhesive than the biopsy stitches/scar. Happy Healing for us all!

Mum had one on Tuesday. She wasn't looking forward to it at all. Afterwards she said she was surprised how little she felt during the procedure. She had to lie flat for 6 hours afterwards, which was the hardest part.

Wow 6 hours is a long, long time to lay flat. I could never lay that way because of my back!

They went in on the top of my abdomen, held pressure for 10 minutes and then just made me sit up in bed for two hours and sent me home. It really is not so bad.

I am glad she had it done and now it is behind her.

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