Over 2 decades experiences shows that ultrasound-guided liver biopsy is the procedure of choice

October 13, 2007

Liver biopsy is a widely used tool in the investigation of liver diseases. It is invasive and has a mortality risk ranging between 0.01% and 0.17%. A liver biopsy should therefore only be performed in patients who would potentially benefit from it. Over the last two decades, we have seen a staggering increase in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus and obesity. These are likely to reflect changes in our socio-economic status and life-styles. Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, the liver manifestation of the metabolic syndrome, is now one of the leading causes of chronic liver diseases and an indication for liver transplantation.

A review was therefore undertaken in a typical district general hospital in the UK, looking at the indications, findings and complications of liver biopsies. The changes in liver biopsy practice and the utility of a liver biopsy were explored. All liver biopsies between 1986 and 2006 were analysed. Clinical data was available for 88 patients who underwent 95 liver biopsies.

Between 1986 and 1996, 95% of all biopsies were performed ¡®blind¡¯ (USS-guided in 5%). 33% of biopsies were performed for patients with primary biliary cirrhosis. Between 1996 and 2006, 18% of all biopsies were performed ¡®blind¡¯ (USS-guided in 78%; other routes in 4%). The majority of liver biopsies (>40%) were performed in patients with raised liver tests and hepatitis C infection. The reduced number of liver biopsies for primary biliary cirrhosis is the result of the development of reliable marker for confirming diagnosis and predicting outcome. Investigators also noted an increasing number of patients diagnosed with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (17% vs. 26%).

In the analyses, investigators found that a liver biopsy was useful in confirming diagnoses in over 90% of patients with abnormal liver function tests but non-specific liver screening investigations. It was also found to be helpful in ¡®staging¡¯ diseases, allowing clinicians to detect the development of cirrhosis (scarring) and to place patients on appropriate treatment or surveillance protocols.

Pain was the most common complication after a liver biopsy (5.2% of biopsies). There was no biopsy-related mortality, but there was a trend towards greater technical failures and complications with the ¡®blind¡¯ liver biopsy technique. These complications included pneumothorax and bleeding around the liver capsule.

This study confirms the safety and utility of the liver biopsy, even in small district hospitals; ultrasound-guided liver biopsy is the procedure of choice.
Reference: Syn WK, Bruckner-Holt C, Farmer A, Howdle S, Bateman J.Liver biopsy in a district general hospital: Changes over two decades. World J Gastroenterol 2007; 13(40): 5336-5342

Correspondence to: Dr W K Syn, Liver and Hepatobiliary Unit, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, B15 2TH, UK. wsyn@doctors.org.uk

About World Journal of Gastroenterology

World Journal of Gastroenterology (WJG), a leading international journal in gastroenterology and hepatology, has established a reputation for publishing first class research on esophageal cancer, gastric cancer, liver cancer, viral hepatitis, colorectal cancer, and H pylori infection for providing a forum for both clinicians and scientists. WJG has been indexed and abstracted in Current Contents/Clinical Medicine, Science Citation Index Expanded (also known as SciSearch) and Journal Citation Reports/Science Edition, Index Medicus, MEDLINE and PubMed, Chemical Abstracts, EMBASE/Excerpta Medica, Abstracts Journals, Nature Clinical Practice Gastroenterology and Hepatology, CAB Abstracts and Global Health. ISI JCR 2003-2000 IF: 3.318, 2.532, 1.445 and 0.993. WJG is a weekly journal published by WJG Press. The publication dates are the 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th day of every month. The WJG is supported by The National Natural Science Foundation of China, No. 30224801 and No. 30424812, and was founded with the name of China National Journal of New Gastroenterology on October 1, 1995, and renamed WJG on January 25, 1998.

About The WJG Press

The WJG Press mainly publishes World Journal of Gastroenterology.

World Journal of Gastroenterology

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