What Are MIIPs? / Getting a tissue sample from the liver

Why do I need a liver biopsy?

A biopsy can help doctors figure out what is going on inside you. There are 2 scenarios where your doctor may send you for a liver biopsy:

    1. Your doctor saw an abnormal spot inside of your liver on your medical imaging test. Not all abnormal spots are dangerous but some can be serious like cancer or an infection. A biopsy can help your doctor figure out what the spot is and how best to treat it. A biopsy can also help you avoid unnecessary treatments.
    2. Your doctor is worried that your liver is not working properly. Some symptoms or abnormal blood tests can mean that your liver is not working right. A biopsy can help your doctor figure out what is going on inside you and how best to treat it.

What is a biopsy?

A biopsy is when a doctor takes a small piece of your tissue in order to figure out what is going on inside you. Doctors do this by looking at the piece of tissue very closely under a microscope.

If they find cancer, they can tell what type of cancer it is and even what kinds of treatments may work best. Some spots are not cancer and there may be no need for treatment. Some spots are due to infection, so treatment would include antibiotics or other medicines. Biopsies done to evaluate the liver when it is not working properly can help doctors determine the cause so they can select the correct treatment.

How is the biopsy done?

Biopsies can be done in one of 2 ways:

    1. With surgery, through an incision or cut in the skin
    2. With a minimally invasive, image-guided procedure (MIIP), through a pinhole in the skin

MIIP biopsies can be done almost anywhere in the body with local numbing medicines alone or with medicines to make you drowsy.

Your skin will be cleaned.  A doctor trained in MIIPs will numb your skin so that you do not feel pain. By using medical imaging to look inside your body from the outside, the doctor will guide a small needle through your skin and into your body. The doctor will use the needle to collect small pieces of tissue. You may hear a clicking noise when the doctor takes the sample. 

Another specialized doctor will look at these small pieces carefully under a microscope and make a diagnosis.

MIIP biopsies usually take around an hour or less. Patients usually go home the same day, usually within a few hours after the biopsy.

What are the risks of a MIIP biopsy?

MIIP biopsies are low risk procedures. Uncommon complications include

  • bleeding
  • infection
  • damage to surrounding tissues.
Some biopsies in or near the lungs may have a small risk of deflating or even smaller risk of collapsing the lung.  If the lung deflates a little bit, it usually does not cause symptoms and will heal naturally. If the lung collapses, your doctor can place a small tube to help your lung inflate again.

Your doctor will discuss all of the risks and benefits with you before the biopsy.

What happens after the biopsy?

Your medical team will watch you for several hours after the biopsy to make sure you do not develop bleeding or other uncommon complications. After this rest, you will be allowed to go home. Your doctor will call you with the results of the biopsy, usually in 1-2 weeks.

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