Percutaneous liver biopsy: Pathologic diagnosis and complications in children

Scott S. Short, Stephanie Papillon, Catherine J. Hunter, Philip Stanley, Nanda Kerkar, Larry Wang, Colleen Azen, Kasper Wang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE:: The aim of this study was to determine patient factors that predict diagnostic failure or increased risk of bleeding complications following percutaneous liver biopsy in children. METHODS:: A retrospective review of all children undergoing percutaneous liver biopsy at a single institution between July 2008 and July 2011 was performed. Demographics, comorbid conditions, preprocedural diagnoses/indications, procedural details, laboratory data, pathologic diagnosis, and complications were recorded. Continuous data were analyzed by Wilcoxon test and categorical data by Fisher exact test to determine statistical significance. RESULTS:: Two hundred thirteen children (104 girls) with a median age of 7 years (range 1 week-22 years) underwent 328 percutaneous liver biopsies. Nine (4.2%) experienced a decrease in hemoglobin >2 g/dL, 7 required transfusion (3.3%), and 1 patient died (0.5%). Younger age (1.8 vs 84 months, P=0.05) and lower preprocedural hematocrit (29.3 vs 34.3, P=0.05) predicted bleeding complications, whereas the number of biopsies, comorbid conditions, and coagulopathy did not. Sixty-three (19.2%) biopsies were insufficient for definitive histologic evaluation on initial biopsy in 57 patients. Twenty-one of 57 patients (37%) underwent repeat percutaneous biopsy and 3 of 57 (8%) underwent surgical biopsy. Biopsy provided definitive diagnosis in 86% of cases when repeat biopsy was performed. Shorter specimen length (1.4 vs 1.7 cm, P<0.01) and biopsies performed for unexplained elevation of liver function tests (34.9% vs 16.7%, P<0.01) were predictive of nondiagnosis. CONCLUSIONS:: Percutaneous liver biopsy is safe with a low rate of bleeding-related complications. Ensuring adequate sample length and careful patient selection may further increase the diagnostic yield.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)644-648
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2013


  • liver biopsy
  • pediatric
  • percutaneous biopsy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Gastroenterology


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