Kids Health Info

Liver biopsy

  • 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.

    Why does my child need a liver biopsy?

    Children may need a liver biopsy for a number of different reasons, for example, to:

    • help diagnose problems with the liver
    • determine how severe a liver disease may be
    • monitor how well the liver is responding to treatment for liver disease
    • monitor a liver following transplant.

    What to expect with a liver biopsy

    Before the procedure

    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.

    During the procedure

    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.

    After the procedure

    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 stay overnight in hospital for close monitoring after the liver biopsy. They should be able to go home the next morning, after they have been reviewed by a doctor.

    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.

    Care at home

    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).

    Follow-up

    Contact the hospital where the procedure took place if:

    • your child has stomach pain or bloating that is continuous or becomes severe
    • there is bleeding from the biopsy site
    • your child has a fever above 38°C.
    • you are worried for any other reason.

    Key points to remember

    • A liver biopsy is a procedure where a very small sample of the liver is taken with a needle.
    • Your child will need a blood test the day before, and they will need to fast on the day of the biopsy.
    • Your child will stay overnight in hospital.
    • Your child should avoid contact sport or vigorous activity for one week after they are discharged from hospital.
    • Seek medical advice if your child has bleeding, bloating, pain or a fever.

    For more information

    Common questions our doctors are asked

    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 September 2018.

    Kids Health Info is supported by The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation. To donate, visit www.rchfoundation.org.au.

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Disclaimer
This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.