Kidney biopsy

Kidney Biopsy

A Kidney Biopsy is an important diagnostic procedure whereby a small sample of tissue is removed from the kidney for evaluation. This procedure can detect a variety of kidney diseases, as it offers a more detailed analysis than other tests, such as urinalysis.


Doctors will typically need to ask questions about any prior history of kidney disease and antibiotics allergies prior to the biopsy. The patient may need to discontinue blood-thinning medications such as asprin prior to the examination. A urine sample and blood test is also taken immediately before the procedure.


A kidney biopsy is performed in a hospital or clinic setting. To begin the procedure, the patient is positioned lying on their stomach on an x-ray table and the lower back is numbed to reduce any pain. Then, the doctor inserts a thin needle going through the skin and muscles into the kidney to collect the sample. There could be some minor discomfort during the procedure, but it rarely lasts for longer than 10 minutes. The doctor carefully monitors the needle’s movement using a real-time ultrasound, providing clearer imaging and reducing the risk of incorrect samples. After the sample is collected, the doctor removes the needle and applies pressure to the site to stop any bleeding. A bandage is then placed over the area and in some cases, a few stitches may also be used to close the puncture. The kidney biopsy is completed when the patient is awakened and the procedure is generally safe and generally only takes up to an hour to complete.


Two types of kidney biopsies exist, each containing a small piece of the kidney and both performed using the same process. Firstly, there is the ‘open’ or ‘cut-down’ biopsy, in which a larger sample is taken directly from the kidney and requires the patient to have general anaesthesia. This type of biopsy is less common and is typically chosen if the results from the needle biopsy are inconclusive. Secondly, there is the ‘needle biopsy’, in which a smaller sample is taken with the help of an ultrasound machine. This is the preferred and most commonly chosen method because there is less chance of complications, such as duty gaining, and the patient will not need general anaesthesia.


Although a kidney biopsy is a relatively safe procedure, there are some risks involved, such as experiencing some discomfort, bleeding, or an infection. There could be side effects such as nausea, vomiting, or a fever, but the patient can also take antibiotics to reduce the risk of any infections. In very rare cases, the biopsy could rupture the kidney, causing major damage, but this is highly unlikely as the doctor will carefully monitor the process with real-time ultrasound.

Why and When A Kidney Biopsy is Needed

Kidney biopsies are usually recommended when a person is suffering from any unexplained symptoms that could be related to their kidneys, such as unexplained blood in their urine, protein in the urine, or high blood pressure. Similar to other biopsies, a kidney biopsy is done to help determine an exact diagnosis by determining if the disease has affected the entire organ, or only part of it. This procedure is especially important for determining the severity of the disease and if possibilities exists for treatment.