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Liver Biopsy Crucial for Reaching Correct Diagnosis, Finds Study

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 26 Jan 2024

Biopsies involve collecting tissue samples from the body for detailed analysis, a crucial method for identifying disease markers. For instance, doctors might perform a liver biopsy if there are concerns about a patient's liver health. This procedure involves inserting a needle into the abdomen to remove a small liver tissue sample, which is then examined under a microscope for signs of disease or injury. A biopsy is one of several diagnostic tools for liver disease, alongside imaging and blood tests. However, biopsies come with risks like bleeding and pain, leading some doctors to prefer noninvasive diagnostic methods. Now, a new study suggests that despite the growing popularity of noninvasive options to diagnose liver disease, there are times when more traditional methods like liver biopsy are still needed for a precise diagnosis.

Researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina (Charleston, SC, USA) conducted a study involving 80 patients with various suspected liver conditions. The aim was to assess the biopsy's role in accurate diagnosis. The findings revealed that biopsies played a critical role in correctly diagnosing patients. The initial diagnoses correlated with biopsy results in just under two-thirds of cases, while in over a third of the instances, biopsy was crucial for the right diagnosis. The effectiveness of biopsy varied depending on the disease; autoimmune hepatitis was harder to diagnose without a biopsy, whereas liver fibrosis was correctly identified over two-thirds of the time without a biopsy.

Image: Liver biopsy illustration (Photo courtesy of NIH)
Image: Liver biopsy illustration (Photo courtesy of NIH)

The study also revealed that six out of the 80 participants, initially believed to have liver issues, actually did not have such issues, underscoring the biopsy's value in resolving diagnostic uncertainties. The researchers suggest that patients should advocate for a biopsy when diagnosis is unclear. They are also exploring safer biopsy methods, such as using an endoscope to reduce risk and discomfort, potentially making biopsies more widely available and beneficial.

“Our study shows that that biopsy continues to be valuable as part of our diagnostic arsenal,” said Don Rockey, M.D., hepatologist and researcher at the Medical University of South Carolina. “In the right time, the right place and the right patient, it’s valuable.”

Related Links:
Medical University of South Carolina

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