A biopsy is done to remove tissue or cells from the body to exam under a microscope. The tissue sample is removed with a needle to check for cancer or other abnormal cells. It also helps check how well the kidney is working.
There are 2 types of kidney biopsies:
If your healthcare provider wants to sample a specific area of the kidney, the biopsy may be guided by ultrasound, fluoroscopy, or computed tomography.
Your kidneys are a pair of purplish-brown organs. They sit below the ribs toward the middle of the back. The kidneys:
When your kidney function is abnormal, a kidney biopsy may be done to:
There may be other reasons for your healthcare provider to advise a kidney biopsy.
As with any procedure, complications can happen including:
If the kidney biopsy is done with the aid of X-ray, the amount of radiation used is small. Therefore, the risk for radiation exposure is low.
If you are pregnant or think you may be, tell your healthcare provider. Talk to your healthcare provider about the risks to the fetus from being exposed to an X-ray. Pregnancy is not always contraindication for having a kidney biopsy. It may be important to maintain the health of the mother. Special precautions may be taken to protect both the mother and the fetus during a kidney biopsy.
You may not be able to have kidney biopsy if you have an active kidney infection, certain bleeding conditions, uncontrolled high blood pressure, or have only one working kidney.
There may be other risks depending on your specific medical condition. Be sure to raise any concerns with your healthcare provider before the procedure.
A kidney biopsy may be done on an outpatient basis or in a hospital. It may be done in a procedure room, in a hospital bed, or in the radiology department. Procedures may vary depending on your condition and your healthcare provider’s practices.
Generally, a kidney needle biopsy follows this process:
Your recovery will vary depending on the type of procedure done and your healthcare provider's practices. You may be taken to the recovery room and watched closely as the anesthesia wears off. Once your blood pressure, pulse, and breathing are stable and you are alert, you may be taken to a hospital room or discharged to your home.
You will be asked to lie on your back for several hours. A nurse will check your urine for signs of bleeding. You may have blood tests to check for internal bleeding. You may be discharged later the same day or the next day. If you had a sedative or anesthetic, plan to have someone drive you home.
The biopsy site may be tender or sore for several days after the biopsy. Take a pain reliever for soreness as advised by your healthcare team. You may need to avoid aspirin or certain other pain medicines that may raise the chance of bleeding. Be sure to take only recommended medicines.
Tell your healthcare team to report any of the following:
You may get back to your usual diet unless told otherwise. Your healthcare team may ask you to rest for a day or two. You will need to avoid strenuous physical activity for several days. Do not do any type of “bouncing" activities, such as jogging, aerobics, playing tennis, or horseback riding for a couple of weeks to prevent bleeding of the biopsy site.
Your healthcare provider may give you other instructions after the procedure, depending on your situation.