Skip to Content
Home > Wellness > Health Library > Kidney Biopsy
biopsy is usually done using a long thin needle put through
the back (flank) into the kidney. This is called a percutaneous kidney biopsy.
A tissue sample is taken and sent to a lab. It is looked at under a microscope.
The sample can help your doctor see how healthy your kidney is and look for any
kidneys are found on either side of the spine, in the
lower back. They help the body balance water, salts, and minerals in the blood.
The kidneys also filter waste products from the blood and make urine.
A kidney biopsy may be done to check for kidney problems. It may also be
done after other tests for kidney disease, such as blood and urine tests,
ultrasound, or a
computed tomography (CT) scan, show a kidney problem.
A kidney biopsy is done to:
Tell your doctor if you:
Follow the instructions exactly
about when to stop eating and drinking, or your test may be canceled. If
your doctor has instructed you to take your medicines on the day of the test,
please do so using only a sip of water.
Arrange to have someone take you home after the biopsy
because you may be given a medicine (sedative) to
help you relax.
You will have blood tests done before the kidney
biopsy to see whether you have any bleeding problems or blood clotting
disorders. You may also have an ultrasound test or CT scan of the kidney to
show the best place in your kidney to put the biopsy needle.
You will be asked to sign a consent form that says you understand the risks of the test and agree to have it done.
Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding the need for the test, its
risks, how it will be done, or what the results will mean. To help you
understand the importance of this test, fill out the
medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).
A kidney biopsy is done by a
nephrologist, or a
radiologist in a clinic or a hospital. A kidney biopsy
is often done by a radiologist using ultrasound,
fluoroscopy, a CT scan, or
magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to help guide the
You will need to take off all or most of your
clothes. You will wear a gown. Before the biopsy, you may be given a sedative
intravenous (IV) line in a vein in your arm. The
sedative will help you relax and lie still during the biopsy.
will be asked to lie on an examination table. A sandbag, a firm
pillow, or a rolled towel will be placed under your body to support your belly.
It is very important that you follow your doctor's directions about breathing,
holding your breath, and lying still while the biopsy is being done.
Your doctor will examine your back and may mark the biopsy site by making
a slight dent in your skin with a pencil or tool. The biopsy may be done on
either the right or the left kidney. The site will be cleaned with a special
soap. Your doctor then gives you
local anesthetic to numb the area where the biopsy
needle will be inserted.
Your doctor puts the biopsy needle
through the skin while
looking at your kidney with ultrasound or another imaging technique. You will be
asked to hold your breath and stay very still while the needle is put into the
The needle is removed after the tissue sample is taken.
Pressure is put on the biopsy site for several minutes to stop the bleeding.
Then a bandage is put on the site. The biopsy takes 15 to 30 minutes.
After the biopsy, you will rest in bed for 6 to 24 hours. Your pulse,
blood pressure, and temperature will be checked often after the biopsy.
If no problems develop, you can go home. To prevent bleeding at the
biopsy site, you will be told to lie down in a certain position for the next 12 to 24 hours. You may eat
your normal diet. Do not take aspirin or anti-inflammatory medicines for a week
after the biopsy. You may do your regular activities, but do not do strenuous
activities, such as heavy lifting, hard running, motorcycle riding, contact
sports, or other activities that might jar or jolt your kidney, for 2 weeks
after the biopsy.
You may feel a brief sting or pinch when
the numbing medicine is put in. When the biopsy needle is put in, you may feel
a sharp pain for a few seconds.
It is normal to feel some muscle
soreness in the area of the biopsy for 2 to 3 days after the biopsy. You may
have a small amount of bleeding on the bandage after the biopsy. Talk to your
doctor about how much pain and bleeding you can expect. Many people will have
bright red blood in their urine for the first 24 hours after the biopsy; this
There is a small chance for serious problems
from a kidney biopsy, but they are rare.
After the biopsy,
call 911 or other emergency services immediately if you develop:
After the biopsy, call your doctor immediately if you:
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
The structure and cells of the
kidney look normal. There are no signs of inflammation, scar tissue, infection, transplant rejection,
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.
Reasons you may not be able to
have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:
Other Works Consulted
Chernecky CC, Berger BJ (2008). Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures, 5th ed. St. Louis: Saunders.
Fischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009). Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
Pagana KD, Pagana TJ (2010). Mosby’s Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerChristopher G. Wood, MD, FACS - Urology, Oncology
Current as ofFebruary 19, 2016
Current as of:
February 19, 2016
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Christopher G. Wood, MD, FACS - Urology, Oncology
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2016 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
I Want To...
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.