A liver biopsy is a procedure to remove a small sample of liver tissue for laboratory testing. A liver biopsy is commonly performed by inserting a thin needle through your skin and into your liver.
Your doctor might start by feeling your abdomen during a physical exam to determine liver size, shape and texture. However this might not be enough to diagnose an enlarged liver.
If your doctor suspects you have an enlarged liver, he or she might recommend other tests and procedures, including:
- Blood tests. A blood sample is tested to determine liver enzyme levels and identify viruses that can cause enlarged liver.
- Imaging tests. Imaging tests include CT scan, ultrasound or MRI.
- Magnetic resonance elastography uses sound waves to create a visual map (elastogram) of the stiffness of liver tissue. This noninvasive test can be an alternative to a liver biopsy.
- Removing a sample of liver tissue for testing (liver biopsy). A liver biopsy is often done using a long, thin needle that's inserted through your skin and into your liver. The needle draws out a core of tissue that is then sent to a laboratory for testing.
Treatment for enlarged liver involves treating the condition that's causing it.
Explore Mayo Clinic studies testing new treatments, interventions and tests as a means to prevent, detect, treat or manage this condition.
Preparing for your appointment
You're likely to start by seeing your primary care doctor. If your doctor suspects you have an enlarged liver, he or she might refer you to the appropriate specialist after testing to determine the cause.
If you have a liver disease, you might be referred to a specialist in liver problems (hepatologist).
Here's information to help you get ready for your appointment.
What you can do
When you make the appointment, ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as fasting before having a specific test. Make a list of:
- Your symptoms, including ones that seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment and when they began
- A list of all medications, vitamins or supplements you take, including doses
- Questions to ask your doctor
Take a family member or friend along, if possible, to help you remember the information you're given.
For enlarged liver some questions to ask your doctor include:
- What's likely causing my symptoms?
- What tests do I need?
- Is my condition likely temporary or long lasting?
- What's the best course of action?
- What are the alternatives to the primary approach you're suggesting?
- I have these other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
- Are there restrictions I need to follow?
- Should I see a specialist?
- Will I need follow-up visits?
- Are there brochures or other printed material I can have? What websites do you recommend?
April 18, 2020
- Hammer GD, et al., eds. Liver disease. In: Pathophysiology of Disease: An Introduction to Clinical Medicine. 7th ed. New York, N.Y.: McGraw-Hill; 2013. http://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com. Accessed Feb. 5, 2018.
- Curry MP, et al. Hepatomegaly: Differential diagnosis and evaluation. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Feb. 5, 2018.
- Medications. American Liver Foundation. https://www.liverfoundation.org/for-patients/about-the-liver/health-wellness/medications/. Accessed Feb. 5, 2018.
- Diet and your liver. American Liver Foundation. https://www.liverfoundation.org/for-patients/about-the-liver/health-wellness#1507301343822-50491142-06d3. Accessed Feb. 8, 2018.
- Drug record: Herbal and dietary supplements. National Institutes of Health. https://livertox.nih.gov/Herbals_and_Dietary_Supplements.htm. Accessed Feb. 8, 2018.
- Kasper DL, et al., eds. Approach to the patient with liver disease. In: Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 19th ed. New York, N.Y.: McGraw-Hill Education; 2015. http://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com. Accessed Feb. 8, 2018.
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