Patient Perspective: Liver Biopsy April 2016

by Michael Hunter


"A liver biopsy is something I always thought "I don't fancy that"! However the time eventually came for me to have one. The thought of having a needle through the side of my chest, probably between the ribs, really did not appeal.

The first place I went to was the PSC Support Facebook group to ask what a liver biopsy was like. True to form, I got loads of responses; they ranged from didn't feel a thing to being quite painful. Much as expected though, as we are all different.

I think I worked myself up a bit prior to the biopsy, but UCLH are pretty good. As I live so far away, they put me up in their 4* hotel about 100m from the hospital. I had bloods done when I arrived and I settled down to get some rest before my biopsy the following morning.

I wasn't allowed to eat or drink anything for 6 hours before, and my procedure was at 11am, so really nothing from the night before. I am taking tramadol, paracetamol and Oramorph for pain relief and these make your mouth very dry, so by the time I got to the hospital I was really thirsty.

On arrival I was taken through to a bay where a nurse booked me in, taking all my details. I changed into a gown and very soon afterwards I was taken through to the ultrasound procedure room. The doctor came in an explained everything to me. It all sounded quite straightforward but as they were doing a targeted biopsy, they needed to use ultrasound to find the right spot to get the sample.

The doctor spent a while trying to compare the CT to the ultrasound. Eventually she was ready and she got the equipment sorted out. She said that she was going to give me a local anaesthetic. It stung a little to start with, but was expected. When she put some more in I felt a strange feeling across my stomach. I didn't think I was anxious but I must have been because at this point I started getting very hot and feeling faint and nauseous. My blood pressure had dropped due to a vasovagal reaction.

They quickly put in a cannula and then put in a bag of fluid. I started feeling much better - they were talking about putting me in recovery for a while but I was all for getting it finished as soon as possible.

Thankfully they did. I was told that the local would still be fine and that I would feel a bit of pressure and maybe the needle catching as it went in. I was now a bit nervous thinking, “Am I going to feel this?”

I didn't even feel the needle go in, let alone any pressure. The next thing I heard was the click from the biopsy gun. They checked to make sure they had enough and it was over!

I was taken to recovery and had to lie on my side pushing my liver up against the chest wall to help stop any bleeding; I had to stay like that for an hour. I was allowed a drink at this point and it was lovely. After another hour I moved on to my back where I had to stay for the next 5 hours! Be warned though, as I was, if you need the loo, it's a bottle or a bedpan!!! After 2 hours I was allowed to eat.

As it was a targeted biopsy I had to stay in overnight, I was so glad to get to the loo after 6 hours of lying flat on my back.

The thought of the biopsy was definitely worse than the actual biopsy. As soon as I could I was up and walking around and I was discharged early the following day. I was told to take it easy for a few days, so I did that.

All in all the experience wasn't that bad - actually much better than an ERCP!"


Many thanks to Michael for sharing his experience of  biopsy with us. If you would like to share your experience of this or any other procedure, do get in touch!