Renal Biopsy

A renal biopsy is a procedure in which a piece of tissue is extracted from a kidney to help diagnose a kidney disorder. There are two kidneys, each located in the back of the abdominal cavity. 

In most cases, renal biopsies are performed by using ultrasound or a CT scan as a guide for placement of a small needle under the ribs in the back.  The needle is slowly guided into one of the kidneys to obtain small samples of tissue, which are then processed and sent to a lab for careful evaluation.  Patients may be given sedation and/or a local anesthetic during the procedure.

Reasons for Renal Biopsy

A renal biopsy may be performed for any of the following reasons:

  • Investigate possible inflammatory or autoimmune kidney disease
  • Monitor the progress of treatment for certain types of kidney disease
  • Follow up on a kidney transplant, particularly if lab testing detects abnormalities

Risks of a Renal Biopsy

In rare instances, there are complications from a renal biopsy. The most common of these is excessive blood in the urine (hematuria), but this usually clears up within a few days. Rarely, an arteriovenous fistula, or abnormal connection between blood vessels, occurs.  This condition may require ifurther ntervention if it does not heal by itself.  It is also possible for a hematoma (collection of blood) to form around the outside of the kidney.  Hematomas usually resolve on their own but may require surgical drainage in very rare cirumstances.

In addition to the risks specific to renal biopsy, the risks of any surgical procedure include the following:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Blood clots
  • Adverse reactions to anesthesia or medications
  • Postsurgical infection
  • Damage to adjacent organs
  • Breathing problems

Recovery from a Renal Biopsy

Recovery from a renal biopsy is generally uneventful. The patient may experience some mild discomfort around the biopsy site, and heavy lifting may be restricted for a period of time.  Patients should contact their healthcare professional if any of the above symptoms occurs after a renal biopsy.

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