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Percutaneous Liver Biopsy: What to Expect at Home

Your Recovery

Percutaneous liver biopsy is a procedure to take a tiny sample (biopsy) of your liver tissue. Percutaneous (say "per-kew-TAY-nee-us) means "through the skin." The procedure is also called aspiration biopsy or fine-needle aspiration. The tissue sample is looked at under a microscope. Your doctor can look for infection or other liver problems.

You may have some pain where the biopsy needle entered your skin (the procedure site). You may also have pain in your shoulder. This is called referred pain. It is caused by pain travelling along a nerve near the biopsy site. The referred pain usually lasts less than 12 hours. You may have a small amount of bleeding from the procedure site.

You will need to take it easy at home for 1 to 3 days after the procedure. You will probably be able to return to work and most of your usual activities after that.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover, but each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to get better as quickly as possible.

How can you care for yourself at home?

If you have no problems after the procedure, you can go home and rest for the day. Have a responsible adult take you home (do not drive yourself). If you live out of town, it’s a good idea for you to stay somewhere overnight within 1 hour of an emergency care hospital. Don’t drive for the next 24 hours or while you’re taking strong pain medicine.


  • Rest when you feel tired. Getting enough sleep will help you recover.
  • Try to walk each day. Start by walking a little more than you did the day before. Bit by bit, increase the amount you walk. Walking boosts blood flow and helps prevent pneumonia and constipation.
  • Avoid exercises that use your belly muscles and strenuous activities, such as bicycle riding, jogging, weight lifting, or aerobic exercise, for 1 week or until your doctor says it is okay.
  • You will probably need to take a few days off from work. It depends on the type of work you do and how you feel. If your job includes heavy lifting using machines, doing hard activity, talk to your doctor about when you can go back to work.
  • Don't lift or carry anything heavier than 4.5 kg (10 lb.) for 3 days. As you feel ready, try to do a little more activity each day for the next 7 days after the procedure.


  • You can eat your normal diet. If your stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.
  • Drink plenty of fluids (unless your doctor tells you not to).


  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. They will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.
  • If you take blood thinners, ask your doctor if and when to start taking them again. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Be safe with medicines. Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, take an over-the-counter medicine that your doctor recommends. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • Do not take acetaminophen (Tylenol) unless your doctor says it is okay.
  • If you think your pain medicine is making you sick to your stomach:
    • Take your medicine after meals (unless your doctor has told you not to).
    • Ask your doctor for a different kind of pain medicine.

Care of the procedure site

  • When you leave the hospital, you may have a dressing covering the procedure site.
  • Leave the dressing on until the morning after the procedure, then change it (ask your healthcare provider how to change the dressing). It's very important to keep the site clean and dry.
  • You may shower 24 to 48 hours after the procedure. Don't scrub the procedure site. Pat the site dry.
  • Don't take baths, use hot tubs, or go swimming until the procedure site no longer has a scab and is completely healed. Don't use any creams, lotions, or ointments on the procedure site.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have severe trouble breathing (shortness of breath).
  • You have sudden chest pain and shortness of breath, or you cough up blood.
  • You have severe pain in your chest, shoulder, or belly.
  • You have bleeding from the procedure site that doesn't stop (for example bright red blood has soaked through your bandage).

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new bleeding from the procedure site.
  • You have pain that does not get better after you take your pain medicine.
  • You are sick to your stomach or cannot keep fluids down (you are throwing them up).
  • You have a fever, chills, or body aches.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the procedure site.
    • Pus draining from the procedure site.
    • Swollen lymph nodes in your neck, armpits, or groin.
    • A fever.
  • You have new or worse pain at the procedure site.
  • You have new or worse belly swelling or bloating.
  • You have trouble peeing or passing stool (poop).
  • Your stools are black and tar-like or have streaks of blood.
  • You have pale-coloured stools along with dark urine and itching.
  • You have yellowing of your eyes or skin that is not normal for you.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if you have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

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