In this section
A liver biopsy is a procedure where a very small sample of the liver is taken with a needle. The sample is then sent to a laboratory for tests.
Your child will be asleep (with a general anaesthetic) during the biopsy and will not feel any pain or be distressed.
Children may need a liver biopsy for a number of different reasons, for example, to:
The day before the biopsy, your child will need to have a blood test. A numbing cream can be applied to your child’s skin before the needle is inserted, to reduce discomfort.
Your child will need to fast (not have anything to eat or drink) for a few hours before they have the liver biopsy, due to the need for a general anaesthetic. You will be given fasting instructions to follow.
If you have any questions about the liver biopsy, ask the doctors or nurses when you come to your appointment.
Your child will be asleep while the liver biopsy is being performed. A doctor will make a small incision (cut) in your child’s abdomen and insert the biopsy needle. The incision will then be covered with a small clear dressing or sticking plaster.
Once the anaesthetic or sedation wears off and your child is awake, the nurse will let you know when your child can eat and drink. They should start with fluids, increasing to some food when they can tolerate it.
For six hours after the procedure, your child will need to rest in bed and will only be able to get up to go to the toilet, under supervision. After the six hours of rest, your child can begin slow and gentle walking.
Your child will need to have close monitoring
for eight hours after the liver biopsy. They should be able to go home after this
period and after being reviewed by the doctor, depending on what time of
the day the biopsy is done.
The results from the liver biopsy will be sent to the referring doctor – some tests may be ready the following day, while others can take several weeks after the procedure.
Your child will be able to return to child care or school the day after they are discharged from hospital. Your child should not participate in contact sport or vigorous activity for one week after discharge.
The dressing should stay on your child for two days. It can then be removed (or left to fall off if your child prefers).
Contact the hospital where the procedure took place if:
What risks are associated with a liver biopsy?
As with all procedures, there is a small risk of infection following a liver biopsy, as well as a risk of ongoing bleeding. In almost all cases, the main concern following a biopsy is discomfort and pain, which usually responds to simple pain relief (e.g. paracetamol or ibuprofen).
My child is very anxious about coming to hospital for their
liver biopsy. How can I help?
Our fact sheet
Reducing your child's discomfort during procedures has a tips on how to talk to your child about having procedures in hospital, including advice on helping them remain calm. You can also show your child our video
Having an IV blood test, which shows a child having an IV blood test at the RCH. This may help reduce any anxiety about having tests in hospital.
Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital Gastroenterology department. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers.
Reviewed October 2020.
Kids Health Info is supported by The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation. To donate, visit
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