A liver biopsy is an outpatient procedure that your doctor may recommend to diagnose an underlying medical condition. The procedure can cause pain, but is usually short-lived.
Many liver biopsies take only a few minutes and only require local anesthesia. It is possible to be given pain relievers during the procedure if needed. After the procedure, you may need pain relievers for up to a week to ease minor pain and soreness at the incision site.
You may feel pain during the liver biopsy and in the hours and days after it has been taken. Pain is here
Educating yourself about the procedure can reduce concerns about potential pain.
The amount of pain you feel may also depend on the procedure.
There are two different routes for an ultrasound guided liver biopsy. One is the subcostal (under a rib) and the other is the intercostal (between the ribs).
The study also found that subcapsular anesthesia performed with a subcostal approach caused the least pain and was the most comfortable.
Percutaneous liver biopsies occur when a doctor inserts a needle into your abdomen. They are the most common, the least invasive and do not require sedation. Local anesthesia eases the pain during these procedures, but you may feel pressure and mild pain.
Many of these procedures only take a few minutes.
There are certain types of surgical liver biopsies that involve general anesthesia, so that you are sedated and unable to feel pain. These are still simple procedures and most people will be sent home the same day:
- Transvenous procedures require your doctor to insert a biopsy needle into the jugular vein in the neck and into the liver.
- Laparoscopic biopsies require your doctor to insert a small video camera through an incision to inspect the liver.
- Endoscopy is a newer option (if expertise is available at a center), with an ultrasound-guided liver biopsy of the inside of the stomach.
Your pain may increase after the procedure when the anesthesia wears off. The University of Michigan reports that one in three people receive pain relievers in the recovery room after a liver biopsy.
If you are concerned about pain, you can discuss your options with your doctor or surgical team.
As a rule of thumb, take pain relievers when you start to feel pain. Delaying treatment and allowing the pain to continue may cause inflammation and make it worse.
After this procedure, the best thing you can do for pain relief and good healing is to rest. If possible, you can check with any family or support system, decide how you are going to sleep, and come up with a meal plan so that you can relax after the biopsy.
You will be monitored for at least 1 hour after the procedure to ensure that you recover as planned. Including preparation, procedure, and monitored recovery, a typical liver biopsy may take
You should feel like yourself immediately after a liver biopsy, but some aches or pains may linger for a week. You may feel discomfort near the biopsy site, either on the right side of your abdomen or on your right shoulder, depending on the procedure.
Avoid strenuous activities for a few days or up to a week. Ask your doctor when you can resume your daily activities.
Will you need time off work to deal with the pain associated with liver biopsy?
Your decision to take time off work for a liver biopsy will depend on your schedule and the physical rigors of your job.
The procedure will take at least half a day. The biopsy itself takes little time, but preparation and recovery will take a few hours in the hospital or on an outpatient basis. An adult will need to drive you home after the biopsy.
Keep in mind that you cannot shower for 24 hours after the procedure, and you should not lift more than 10 pounds for a week.
Severe pain after a liver biopsy may be a sign of a rare complication such as internal bleeding. Call your doctor if you experience severe pain after being sent home. Other symptoms that require immediate medical treatment include:
- abdominal pain or bloating
- redness and swelling near the incision
- bleeding at the incision
- a racing heartbeat
- nausea or vomiting
- bloody or atypical stools
- a fever
You will need to see an emergency doctor if you experience:
- chest pain
- shortness of breath
- loss of consciousness
Liver biopsies can cause pain, but it can be managed with pain relievers. The pain from the biopsy should subside after a week. Talk to your doctor before the procedure to allay your concerns about pain.
See a doctor immediately after your procedure if your pain gets worse or if you notice other changes in your condition.