Liver Biopsy (cont.)
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Type of Tissue That Is Undergoing Biopsy
In most circumstances, liver biopsy is being performed to diagnose a condition that affects the entirety of the liver. Whether a patient has a chronic viral infection like chronic hepatitis B or C, or an autoimmune disease like primary biliary cirrhosis, or a metabolic disease like hereditary hemochromatosis, it is anticipated that the underlying disease process affects all regions of the liver equally. A small piece of tissue that is being removed from the right lobe of the liver is expected to be representative of the disease process that is affecting the liver as a whole. Unfortunately, this expectation is incorrect in some individuals. A minority of patients will have conditions where one area of the liver may be affected more than another area. This may lead to diagnostic inaccuracy.
Other patients require liver biopsy in order to diagnose a mass of tissue within the liver that was identified by an imaging study of the liver. Some masses are benign; others are malignant or cancerous. With so-called "guided" biopsies, the patient undergoes either an ultrasound or a computerized tomography (CT scan) at the time of the biopsy. The physician performing the biopsy (typically an interventional radiologist) uses the results of ultrasound or that scan to guide the biopsy needle to the mass. In CT-guided biopsies, the biopsy is performed while the patient is actually lying upon the CT table.
Benefits of Liver Biopsy
The key benefit of biopsy is the correct determination of a patient's diagnosis. Once a diagnosis is correctly made, physicians can begin appropriate treatment.
Sometimes, liver biopsy is performed to determine whether or not liver disease is stable or has progressed over a period of time. Uncertainty as to the severity of one's disease can be devastating for some patients. The results of liver biopsy may bring the patient comfort, even if the biopsy shows that the individual's disease has progressed.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/20/2015
David C. Wolf, M.D., FACP, FACG, AGAF
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