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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 puncture 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 puncture site.

You will need to take it easy at home for 1 or 2 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?


  • 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.
  • Ask your doctor when you can drive again.
  • You will probably need to take 1 or 2 days off from work. It depends on the type of work you do and how you feel.
  • You will probably be able to shower the same day as the test, if your doctor says it is okay. Pat the puncture site dry. Do not take a bath for at least 2 days after the test, or until your doctor tells you it is okay.


  • 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. He or she will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.
  • If you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if and when to start taking those medicines 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 aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) 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 puncture site

  • Keep a bandage over the puncture site for the first 1 or 2 days.

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 call line 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.
  • You have sudden chest pain and shortness of breath, or you cough up blood.
  • You have severe pain in your chest, shoulder, or belly.

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

  • You have new or worse shortness of breath.
  • Bright red blood has soaked through the bandage over the puncture 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 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 puncture site.
    • Pus draining from the puncture site.
    • Swollen lymph nodes in your neck, armpits, or groin.
    • A fever.
  • You have new or worse pain at the puncture site.
  • You have new or worse belly swelling or bloating.
  • You have trouble passing urine or stool.
  • Your stools are black and tar-like or have streaks of blood.
  • You have pale-coloured stools along with dark urine and itching.

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

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.