Page header image

Laparoscopy for Liver Biopsy

What is a laparoscopy for liver biopsy?

A laparoscopy is a way to look inside your belly at the liver. A tool called a laparoscope is used to look at the liver and to help take samples for tests. A laparoscope is a thin tube with a light and tiny camera. It is placed through a tiny incision (cut), usually in the belly button. The camera shows a view of the abdominal organs on a TV monitor. Your healthcare provider uses this view to take samples of the liver with tiny tools.

When is it used?

You may have had other medical tests that suggested something is wrong with your liver. Your provider can use this procedure to learn more about your liver problem. If you have a malignant tumor in the liver, you may have the procedure to see if it will be possible to remove the tumor with a major operation.

Examples of alternatives are:

  • having open abdominal surgery (making a larger cut in your belly)
  • having a needle biopsy guided by a CT scan
  • choosing not to have the procedure, while recognizing the risks of your condition.

Ask your healthcare provider about these choices.

How do I prepare for a laparoscopy?

Plan for your care and recovery after the operation. Arrange for someone to drive you home after the procedure. Allow for time to rest and try to find other people to help you with your day-to-day duties.

Follow your healthcare provider's instructions about not smoking before and after the procedure. Smokers heal more slowly after surgery. They are also more likely to have breathing problems during surgery. For these reasons, if you are a smoker, you should quit at least 2 weeks before the procedure. It is best to quit 6 to 8 weeks before surgery.

If you need a minor pain reliever in the week before surgery, choose acetaminophen rather than aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen. This helps avoid extra bleeding during surgery. If you are taking daily aspirin for a medical condition, ask your healthcare provider if you need to stop taking it before your surgery.

Follow any other instructions your healthcare provider gives you. Eat a light meal, such as soup or salad, the night before the procedure. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight and the morning before the procedure. Do not even drink coffee, tea, or water.

What happens during the procedure?

You are given a general anesthetic, which relaxes your muscles, puts you to sleep, and keeps you from feeling pain.

Your provider makes a small cut (incision) in or just below your bellybutton. Your abdominal cavity is inflated with carbon dioxide gas. This helps your healthcare provider see your liver. Your provider puts a laparoscope through the cut and another tool through a second small cut in your abdomen. The laparoscope is used to look at the liver and guide the other tool. If your provider finds a growth that should not be there, he or she may use the other tool to take a sample of the growth or remove it. The sample of tissue is sent to the lab for tests.

When finished, your provider releases most of the gas through the tube of the laparoscope, removes the scope and any other tools, and sews up the cuts.

What happens after the procedure?

You may stay in the hospital for a few hours or overnight to recover. The anesthetic may cause sleepiness or grogginess for a while. You may feel bloated or have a change in bowel habits for a few days. You may have some shoulder pain from the carbon dioxide gas used to inflate your peritoneal cavity. You may not be able to urinate right away and may have a catheter placed into your bladder to drain urine. A catheter is a small tube that can be placed into the bladder through the urethra, which is the passageway from the bladder to the outside.

You may need to avoid heavy activity, such as lifting, for 3 to 6 weeks. Ask your healthcare provider when you can start lifting again and how much you can lift. Ask your healthcare provider what other steps you should take and when you should come back for a checkup.

What are the benefits of this procedure?

This surgical procedure may help your healthcare provider make a more accurate diagnosis and determine the best treatment.

What are the risks associated with this procedure?

  • There are some risks when you have general anesthesia. Discuss these risks with your healthcare provider.
  • The intestines, other abdominal organs, glands, or blood vessels may be damaged. You may need abdominal surgery to repair them at the time of the laparoscopy.
  • The lining of the abdominal cavity may become inflamed.
  • You may have infection or bleeding.
  • You may have some pain after the procedure.

You should ask your healthcare provider how these risks apply to you.

When should I call my healthcare provider?

Call your provider right away if:

  • You develop a fever over 100°F (37.8°C).
  • You have redness, swelling, pain, or drainage from the incisions.
  • You become dizzy and faint.
  • You have chest pain.
  • You have nausea and vomiting.
  • You become short of breath.
  • You have abdominal pain or swelling that gets worse.

Call during office hours if:

  • You have questions about the procedure or its result.
  • You want to make another appointment.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2010-07-13
Last reviewed: 2010-05-09
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2011 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
Page footer image