Liver biopsy factsheet


A liver biopsy is a procedure that is done to find out whether your child has any liver disease or damage. It is also used to find out what might be causing the damage.

A biopsy is when a small piece of tissue is taken from the body and tested by a specialist doctor called a pathologist.

 Before the procedure

Your child's treatment team will speak to you before the procedure to let you know:

  • when and where your child needs to arrive
  • when your child needs to stop eating and drinking
  • whether your child needs to have any blood tests done.

Your child may need an ultrasound scan to find the exact spot where the biopsy needs to be done.

The liver biopsy is done with a general anaesthetic, which means your child will be asleep for the procedure and will not feel any pain. 

 During the procedure

Generally, the steps of a liver biopsy are:

  1. a thin tube called an intravenous (IV) cannula is inserted into a vein in your child's arm
  2. the anaesthetic medicine is pushed through your child's IV cannula
  3. a small cut is made on the upper right side of your child's abdomen
  4. a special needle is inserted through the cut
  5. the needle is used to remove a small piece of liver tissue
  6. the small piece of liver is taken away to be tested.

 After the procedure

After the procedure, your child will go to the recovery ward to wake up. They will have a sandbag or pressure bandage over the surgery site to stop bleeding.

Your child must lie on their right side for up to 6 hours after the procedure until the doctor or nurse says they can move positions.

Your child will usually stay overnight in the hospital after the procedure so the doctors and nurses can make sure they are recovering well. They can go home in the morning if they are well.

The biopsy dressing must stay in place for 24 hours after the procedure. Let your child's doctor or nurse know if you have any questions or concerns.


Complications and risks

It is common to have some pain or discomfort around the biopsy site or in the right shoulder. Your child will be given pain medicine in the hospital.

Serious but rare complications after liver biopsy include:

  • bleeding
  • infection
  • puncture of the lungs
  • puncture of the gallbladder or bile tubes.

Speak to your child's doctor if you have any questions or concerns about possible complications from a liver biopsy.

Last updated Tuesday 12th December 2023


This factsheet is provided for general information only. It does not constitute health advice and should not be used to diagnose or treat any health condition.

Please consult with your doctor or other health professional to make sure this information is right for you and/or your child.

The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network does not accept responsibility for inaccuracies or omissions, the interpretation of the information, or for success or appropriateness of any treatment described in the factsheet.

© Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network 2024