JOURNAL ARTICLE
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The indications for liver biopsy.

BACKGROUND: Despite improvements in serological and radiological techniques, liver biopsy remains the most reliable way to diagnose diffuse hepatic disease and hepatic nodules. The indications for this invasive technique must be weighed against the small, but not negligible, risk of a complication.

METHODS: The indications for liver biopsy are summarized on the basis of a selective review of the literature, including the published recommendations and position statements of specialty societies in Germany and abroad. The conclusions are supplemented with an evaluation of the authors' own experience.

RESULTS: The success of liver biopsy depends not only on the selection of the puncture method and on due attention to the relative and absolute contraindications, but also on the experience of the person carrying out the procedure. For patients with hepatitis of various etiologies, liver biopsy is used not only to establish the cause of the disorder, but also to assess the degree of inflammatory activity (grading) and the extent of fibrosis (staging).

CONCLUSION: Liver biopsy enables the reliable diagnosis of hepatic lesions and is an important aid to treatment planning and prognostication.

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