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Kidney Biopsy

Risks

There is a small chance for serious problems from a kidney biopsy, but they are rare.

  • Bleeding into the muscle, which can cause soreness.
  • Bleeding into the kidney.
  • Infection of the skin at the biopsy site.
  • Pneumothorax (collapsed lung).
  • Puncturing a major blood vessel, which may need blood transfusions, renal angiography and embolization, or surgery. This is very rare.

After the biopsy

After the biopsy, call911or other emergency services immediately if you develop:

After the biopsy, call your doctor immediately if you:

  • Develop more pain in your back, belly, or groin.
  • Have too much bleeding or drainage (such as pus) from the biopsy site.
  • Have blood in your urine for longer than 24 hours after the biopsy.
  • Have signs of an infection, such as a fever or burning when you urinate.
  • Have weakness or lightheadedness when you change position, such as standing up from a sitting or lying position.

Results

A kidney biopsy is done by inserting a long needle through the back (flank) or belly to remove a sample of kidney tissue.

Biopsy results are ready in 2 to 4 days. If tests are done to find infections, it may take several weeks for the results to be ready.

Kidney biopsy
Normal:

The structure and cells of the kidney look normal. There are no signs of inflammation, scar tissue, infection, transplant rejection, or cancer.

Abnormal:

The sample may show signs of scarring due to infection, poor blood flow, glomerulonephritis, a kidney infection (pyelonephritis), or signs of other diseases that affect the body, such as systemic lupus erythematosus.

Kidney tissue may show tumors that were not expected, such as Wilms' tumor (which occurs in early childhood) and renal cell cancer (which is most common after age 40).

Kidney tissue shows signs of transplant reactions, rejection, or failure.

What Affects the Test

Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:

  • Having an untreated bleeding or blood clotting disorder.
  • Not being able to lie still.
  • Having advanced kidney disease, uncontrolled high blood pressure, or only one kidney.
  • Being obese.
  • Having a severely deformed spine.
  • Having a urinary tract infection.

What To Think About

  • A kidney biopsy is done after other tests for kidney disease (such as blood and urine tests, ultrasound, and a CT scan) have not been able to tell what kind of kidney problem is present. A kidney biopsy has more risk for problems than these other tests and a chance of false-negative results. More than one biopsy may be needed.
  • Open kidney biopsy and ureteroscopy are two other methods that may be used to take kidney tissue samples. You will stay overnight in the hospital for these biopsies.
    • An open kidney biopsy is a surgery done in an operating room while you are asleep (general anesthesia). A cut (incision) is made through the back or the side and a small piece of kidney tissue is taken out. Open biopsy is often done when the doctor needs to remove a larger piece of tissue (such as a tumor).
    • Ureteroscopy with biopsy is often done if there is a mass in the renal pelvis or ureter. Ureteroscopy is a surgery done in an operating room under spinal or general anesthesia. A long thin flexible tube (ureteroscope) is used to look inside the ureter and lower part of the kidney (renal pelvis). Once the mass is found, a biopsy is done through the ureteroscope.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: September 24, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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