Biopsy - biliary tract

Biliary tract biopsy – what is it?

A biliary tract biopsy is a medical procedure which involves taking a small tissue from different parts of the liver, gallbladder or bile ducts. The tissue is then tested for abnormal cells or other signs of disease or injury. A biliary tract biopsy can help diagnose diseases such as cancer and inflammation, identify infection or provide evidence of a blocked bile duct or gallstone.

When is a biliary tract biopsy required?

A biliary tract biopsy is generally recommended when a person has symptoms such as chronic fatigue, abdominal pain, loss of appetite or weight loss, and blood tests show abnormal levels of certain enzymes or other markers. The biopsy may also be recommended when medical imaging such as an MRI or CT scan shows an enlarged or inflamed biliary tract. The biopsy can help determine the underlying cause of the symptoms and guide treatment decisions.

Preparation for biliary tract biopsy

Before a biopsy procedure, the patient typically has physical exams and lab tests to assess their health ahead of the procedure. The patient may also be asked to discontinue certain medications such as blood thinners prior to the procedure. Depending on the type of biopsy, the patient may have to fast for a period of time prior to the procedure.

Procedure for biliary tract biopsy

This procedure can be done either through a transfemoral catheterization (a tube inserted through the femoral artery) or via endoscopy (with a special camera). In both procedures, a biopsy forceps or needle is used to take the tissue samples. Local or general anesthesia may be used to minimize discomfort. The tissue samples are then sent to the lab for testing.

Types of biliary tract biopsy

The most common type of biliary tract biopsy is the liver biopsy which uses a needle to take a sample of the liver tissue. Endoscopic ultrasound-guided biopsy and transhepatic biopsy are other types of biopsy procedures used to diagnose the disorders of the biliary tract.

Risks of biliary tract biopsy

The procedure is generally considered safe, but complications associated with biliary tract biopsy include pain, infection, uncontrolled bleeding, and organ damage. Other possible risks include allergic reaction to anesthesia, dislodged of gallstones, and puncture of the liver. Patients may be advised to rest and have an ultrasound to monitor for any complications after the procedure.

Why get a biliary tract biopsy?

A biliary tract biopsy can provide useful information to help diagnose and treat diseases of the bile ducts, gallbladder, and liver. The biopsy can diagnose a range of diseases, such as cancer and inflammation, as well as pinpoint the cause of any blockages, identify infection, and provide evidence of the presence of gallstones. The biopsy can also help determine the type of treatment that is most appropriate for the patient, and help doctors monitor the response to any treatment they may be receiving.