This document provides guidance on the specimen handling and reporting of liver biopsies. This relates primarily to those biopsies taken for the investigation of medical liver disease (referred to as ‘medical liver biopsies’ in the document). For convenience, the section on targeted liver biopsy of focal lesions from the liver cancer dataset is reproduced here, since most such biopsies are reported outside specialist hepatobiliary cancer centres. A recent audit of UK practice showed that 67% of needle core liver biopsies in the UK in 2008 were for the investigation of diffuse parenchymal liver disease and 33% for diagnosis of focal lesions.
Liver biopsy is an invasive procedure associated with a small risk of serious and potentially life-threatening complications. The decision to perform a liver biopsy is based on a careful risk-benefit assessment. Once the decision to perform a liver biopsy has been made, it is essential that laboratory and diagnostic procedures are in place to optimise the clinical benefit obtained from the biopsy.
The previous guidelines, Tissue pathways for liver biopsies for the investigation of medical disease and for focal lesions, were published in 2008. These have now been revised to ensure that all recommendations are up to date and that the document complies with the revised format of the tissue pathway series.