Thumbnail image of: Kidney: Illustration

Kidney Biopsy

What is a kidney biopsy?

A kidney biopsy is a procedure for removing small pieces of tissue from a kidney for lab tests. Usually a needle is inserted through the skin over the kidney to get the samples of tissue.

When is it used?

Reasons for doing this procedure include:

  • Your kidney is not working well for unknown reasons.
  • You may have too much protein in your urine.
  • Your healthcare provider may want remove a sample of tissue from your kidney to diagnose a tumor or an abscess (area of infection).

The biopsy helps your healthcare provider make a more accurate diagnosis, which will help determine the right treatment for problems you may be having. It will also help your provider to predict the probable course or results of a disease.

Ask your healthcare provider about your choices for treatment and the risks.

How do I prepare for this procedure?

  • Plan for your care and find someone to give you a ride home after the procedure.
  • You may or may not need to take your regular medicines the day of the procedure. Some medicines (like aspirin) may increase your risk of bleeding during or after the procedure. Tell your healthcare provider about all medicines and supplements that you take. Ask your provider if you need to avoid taking any medicine or supplements before the procedure.
  • Follow any other instructions your healthcare provider gives you.
  • Ask any questions you have before the procedure. You should understand what your healthcare provider is going to do. You have the right to make decisions about your healthcare and to give permission for tests or procedures.

What happens during the procedure?

This procedure is done at the hospital, surgery center, or imaging center.

You may be given a local anesthetic to numb the area. The anesthetic will keep you from feeling pain during the procedure. You may also be given medicine to help you relax, but you may be awake during the test.

Your healthcare provider will use scans to see the kidneys, such as:

  • Ultrasound, which uses sound waves to show pictures of the kidneys
  • CT scan, which uses X-rays and a computer to show detailed pictures of the kidneys

If CT is used, you may be given a dye that shows up on an X-ray. The dye will be given through an IV. The dye will make it easier to see the kidney as the biopsy needle is inserted.

Your provider will puncture the skin and guide a needle to the kidney. Because the kidneys move when you breathe, you must hold your breath for 15 to 20 seconds as the needle is inserted into your kidney. Your provider will use the needle to remove tissue. The needle may need to be inserted more than once to get enough tissue. Tissue that is removed will be sent to the lab to be examined under a microscope during or right after the procedure.

A kidney biopsy usually takes about 30 to 45 minutes.

What happens after the procedure?

After the test you may stay in a recovery area for a few hours and then you may be able to go home.

Ask your healthcare provider:

  • How and when you will hear your test results
  • How long it will take to recover
  • What activities you should avoid, including how much weight you can lift and when you can return to your normal activities
  • How to take care of yourself at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup.

What are the risks of this procedure?

Every procedure or treatment has risks. Some possible risks of this procedure include:

  • You may have problems with anesthesia.
  • You may have infection or bleeding.
  • The needle may puncture a nearby blood vessel, an organ, or a gland. This could cause it to leak or bleed. Excessive bleeding could require a blood transfusion or surgical intervention to stop the bleeding.
  • If the needle crosses a collection of bacteria, it could spread an infection to other areas or to the bloodstream.
  • If X-ray dye is given into a vein, you may have an allergic reaction to the dye. The reaction may cause trouble breathing, a drop in blood pressure, unconsciousness, or swelling of the skin.

Ask your healthcare provider how the risks apply to you. Be sure to discuss any other questions or concerns that you may have.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-01-29
Last reviewed: 2014-08-25
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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