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What happens during liver research?

Thank you for your interest in liver research. Explore the content below to discover common activities, tests and procedures during clinical research participation.

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Liver Biopsy

What is a liver biopsy and why is it done? Expand answer

A liver biopsy is a procedure that involves obtaining a small piece of liver tissue, which is then analyzed in the laboratory. Liver biopsy may be recommended to diagnose a problem or determine the severity of liver disease. The most common reason to obtain a liver biopsy is to determine if there is scar tissue in the liver (and if there is, how much) in a person with chronic liver disease.

What happens during the procedure? Expand answer

Most liver biopsies are done in a hospital. Upon arrival for the biopsy (usually in the early morning), a doctor or nurse will review your medical history, including medications and allergies. You may have an intravenous (IV) line placed into a vein so that fluid and medicine can be given if needed.

You may be given medicines to minimize discomfort and anxiety. Because your cooperation is needed during a liver biopsy, you will not be put to sleep.

The biopsy itself only takes a few seconds as the biopsy needle is passed quickly in and out of the liver. A small bandage will be applied to the biopsy site; stitches are not needed.

Liver biopsy can also be performed during abdominal surgery.

Body Composition Testing

What is dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) and why is it done? Expand answer

Bone density testing with a dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scan is one way doctors can check how strong your bones are, however, a DXA scan can also measure how much muscle and body fat you have.

What happens during a DXA test? Expand answer

During DXA, you lie on a table. Then an X-ray machine scans your body. The test doesn’t hurt or make you uncomfortable. You don’t need to take any pills or get any shots. The whole scan takes 5 to 10 minutes. Even though a DXA is a type of X-ray, it gives off very little radiation. During a DXA you get about the same amount of radiation that an average person gets from the environment in one day. After the test, your muscle mass and body fat are measured.

What is a skin fold assessment and why is it done? Expand answer

Skin fold assessments are a non-invasive method used to determine the percent of lean body mass and body fat.

What happens during a skin fold assessment? Expand answer

A trained study team member will use skin fold calipers to measure various body sites (3 to 7 sites) to measure body composition.

Fitness Testing

What is fitness testing and why is it done? Expand answer

Fitness testing is done using a stress test to measure physical fitness. A stress test also shows how well the heart works when it is beating fast. When the heart pumps fast, it needs more blood. A stress test is sometimes called an “exercise test” or a “treadmill test.”

A person can have an electrocardiogram (ECG) without having a stress test. But if a person has a stress test, he or she will always have an ECG with it.

A stress test helps us determine if you can safely exercise.

What happens during fitness testing? Expand answer

An ECG is done first and a doctor, nurse, or technician will first stick patches (called “electrodes”) onto your chest, arms, and legs. Wires connect the patches to the ECG machine. The machine will measure and record your heart’s electrical activity and print out the results. Having an ECG doesn’t hurt.

For a stress test, the doctor, nurse, or technician will measure your blood pressure. Then he or she will “stress” your heart and increase your heart rate by having you walk or run on the treadmill depending on your fitness level.

During your stress test, the doctor or nurse will watch you. He or she will check your blood pressure, monitor a continuous ECG, and ask how you feel. You might also need to breathe into a tube at certain times during the test. The test will end when you can’t exercise anymore or when your doctor or nurse tells you the test is over.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

What is an MRI and what why is it done? Expand answer

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is an imaging procedure that allows doctors to see very detailed images of internal body structures. We are using MRI scans to measure fat in your liver.

What happens during a liver MRI? Expand answer

During an MRI, the technician will have you lay in a large tube-like magnet. You will be asked to lay still and to do a variety of breathing exercises during the test. You will wear headphones to drown out the noise of the scanner.

Frailty Assessment

What is a frailty assessment and why is it done? Expand answer

Frailty is a physical decline which can make one vulnerable to adverse health outcomes.

A frailty assessment measures physical performance to best identify a patient who may be at risk for weakness and fatigue as well as reduced tolerance to medical and surgical interventions.

What happens during a frailty assessment? Expand answer

Multiple frailty screening tools have been developed and utilized to help doctors understand if a patient is at risk for being frail. The assessment can include a variety of questions and simple physical measurements, including but not limited to walking speed and hand grip strength.


What is a fibroscan and why is it done? Expand answer

A fibroscan is a special ultrasound that uses a sound wave to measure liver stiffness. This allows doctors to evaluate your liver health.

The doctor may order a fibroscan to more accurately learn about the liver’s condition. It can help determine how much fat is stored in the liver and the degree of fibrosis and/or cirrhosis in the liver.

What happens during a fibroscan? Expand answer

During a fibroscan, a nurse will position you on your back with your right arm raised behind your head. They will then apply a gel to your skin on the right side of your torso and then apply a probe to the area. There are ten measurements that are taken during the scan.

This is a non-invasive test and does not hurt.