We have investigated whether liver resection and needle liver biopsy cause dissemination of liver cells into peripheral blood circulation, using a reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR)-based assay targeted against α-fetoprotein (AFP) mRNA. Twelve patients with and 16 without primary liver cancer (PLC) undergoing liver resection were tested before skin incision, after liver mobilization, after hepatic parenchyma transection, after abdominal wall suture, and 4 days after surgery. Two patients with and 20 without PLC were tested before, 20 minutes after, and 24 hours after needle liver biopsy. Six of 14 patients with and 0 of 36 patients without PLC scored positive before intervention (P < .001). Liver cell spreading was induced at different times after surgery and liver biopsy in 14 of 14 patients with but also 23 of 36 without PLC (P < .05). We conclude that liver resection and needle liver biopsy induce release of cells from the liver, which are not necessarily liver tumor cells, into the peripheral blood circulation. This may be, however, an important mechanism of liver cancer cell dissemination deserving further investigations.