Tests, procedures and surgery

Kidney biopsy

(Biopsy, Kidney; Renal Biopsy; Biopsy, Renal)

Kidney biopsy – Definition

A kidney biopsy is the removal of a small piece of kidney tissue or cells. A pathologist (a doctor who specializes in tissue diagnosis) uses a microscope to look at the tissue for abnormalities.


Kidney biopsy – Reasons for Procedure

A kidney biopsy is done to diagnose a disease or medical condition.

A kidney biopsy may be done if you have:

  • Blood in the urine
  • High levels of protein in the urine
  • Low kidney function
  • A growth on the kidney
  • Kidney infection
  • Cyst on the kidney

Once the tissue is examined, your doctor can make a diagnosis and provide treatment.

If you had a kidney transplant, it may also be done to see if your new kidney is working properly.

Kidney biopsy – Possible Complications

Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you have a kidney biopsy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Pain

Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:

  • Smoking

Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the biopsy.

Kidney biopsy – What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

  • Before the biopsy, your doctor may order urine tests, blood tests, and x-rays of your kidneys.
    • You should ask your doctor when you can expect to know the biopsy results.
  • Arrange for a ride home after your biopsy.
  • Your doctor may ask you to fast or eat lightly before your biopsy.
  • Talk to your doctor about your medicines. You may be asked to stop taking some medicines up to one week before the procedure like:
    • Anti-inflammatory drugs (eg, aspirin)
    • Blood thinners like clopidogrel (Plavix) or warfarin (Coumadin)

Kidney biopsy – Anesthesia

You will receive a local anesthetic to numb your skin. You may also receive a light sedative.

Kidney biopsy – Description of Procedure

This procedure is usually done in an outpatient setting with no need for an overnight stay. Your skin will be cleaned; this may be on your back or abdomen. The doctor will then inject a local anesthetic into the area where the biopsy will be taken. Next, your kidney will be located using either ultrasound or x-ray. Then, long needles will be inserted to collect tissue samples. A special instrument may be used to insert the needles. During the collection, you may be asked to hold your breath. Once the samples are collected, a bandage will be placed on your skin.

Kidney biopsy – How Long Will It Take?

About an hour

Kidney biopsy – How Much Will It Hurt?

The local anesthetic will block the pain during the biopsy. Afterwards, you may feel sore where the biopsy was taken. Ask your doctor which pain reliever is right for you.

Kidney biopsy – Post-procedure Care

At the Care Center

You will be monitored for a few hours after your biopsy. You will be asked to remain lying down to reduce the chance of bleeding. Your pulse and blood pressure will be monitored. Your biopsy samples will be sent to the laboratory for testing. Once you are feeling well and the doctor feels it is safe, you will be sent home.

At Home

When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:

  • Rest to prevent bleeding. You should usually rest for the first 24-48 hours after the biopsy. Do not lift or exercise until your doctor says it is okay.
  • Keep your biopsy site clean and dry.
  • Check your urine. You may notice some blood in your urine. This is normal for the first 24 hours. If there is bleeding for longer than 24 hours or a lot of bleeding, call your doctor.
  • Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions.

Kidney biopsy – Call Your Doctor

After arriving home, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:

  • Bloody urine 24 hours after biopsy or a lot of blood in the urine
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Dizziness
  • Pain that is worse at biopsy site
  • Pain that you cannot control with the medicines you have been given
  • Always feeling the need to urinate
  • Pain or burning when you urinate
  • Redness or drainage at biopsy site

In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.

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