OBJECTIVE: Percutaneous liver biopsy is an essential diagnostic tool utilized in the management of patients with liver disease. This procedure is generally performed by a physician and has a small but well-defined complication rate. We report on the complication rate and efficiency of ultrasound-assisted percutaneous liver biopsy performed by an experienced physician assistant. METHODS: One thousand eighty-six consecutive outpatient liver biopsies (847 hepatic allografts and 239 native livers) were performed at a single center by a physician assistant between June, 1996 and June, 2000. Patients with hepatic mass lesions, unusual hepatic anatomy, and uncorrectable coagulopathy (international normalized ratio > 1.7, platelet count < 50 × 109/L) were excluded. Bedside ultrasonography was used to determine the optimal site for the liver biopsy. Liver biopsies were performed with a 15-gauge Jamshidi aspiration biopsy needle. Patients were observed for 3 h after biopsy, followed by dismissal with subsequent contact in 24 h to assess outcome and complications. RESULTS: Adequate tissue was obtained in 1084 cases (99.8%), with a mean tissue length of 3.2 cm. After the procedure, narcotic analgesia was necessary in 116 (10%) of the patients undergoing liver biopsies. The overall complication rate requiring hospitalization was 0.6%. Major complications requiring intervention occurred in four patients (0.4%). There were no deaths resulting from liver biopsies. CONCLUSION: We conclude that outpatient percutaneous liver biopsy can be safely and effectively performed by a trained physician assistant.
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