Kidney Biopsy

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A kidney biopsy, also known as a renal biopsy, is a medical procedure that collects kidney tissue for analysis. Often, your doctor will order a kidney biopsy so he or she can properly diagnose what type of kidney-related disease you may have and what stage it is in. A proper diagnosis is key for devising an effective treatment plan and can also help monitor the effectiveness of any kidney treatments you’re currently undergoing.

Today, there are two primary ways your doctor may perform a kidney biopsy:

  • Percutaneous Biopsy: Also known as a renal needle biopsy, this is the most common kidney biopsy procedure. During the procedure, your doctor will insert a biopsy needle into your skin and collect a sample of your kidney tissue. To ensure the needle hits its mark, your doctor may employ the use of a CT scan or ultrasound.
  • Open Biopsy: Also known as a surgical biopsy, this procedure involves your doctor making an incision near your kidneys so he or she can better determine which part of your kidney tissue is best for a sample.

Kidney Biopsy Reasons

The purpose of performing a kidney biopsy is so your doctor can determine the cause of any condition causing your kidneys to malfunction. After all, kidneys are responsible for many things to keep your body running optimally, including the following:

  • Removing Liquid Waste from Your Blood
  • Maintaining Balance of Chemicals in Your Blood
  • Supplying Erythropoietin, a Hormone That Supports Red Blood Cell Growth
  • Producing Renin, a Hormone That Controls Your Blood Pressure

Typically, prior to performing a kidney biopsy, your doctor will order blood and urine tests to determine whether you really have a problem with your kidneys. If there is a problem, a biopsy will do the following:

  • Determine the Reason Behind Abnormal Waste Levels in Your Blood
  • Determine Whether a Kidney Tumor Is Benign or Malignant
  • Gauge the Effectiveness of a Kidney Transplant
  • Investigate the Cause of Hematuria or Proteinuria
  • Examine the Severity of Progressive Kidney Failure

Kidney Biopsy Risks

While a kidney biopsy can provide critical information about the health of your kidneys, there are risks associated with the procedure. For example, the procedure may result in an infection that could become a serious health issue. If you undergo a kidney biopsy, keep an eye out for signs of an infection. The symptoms may include:

  • Trouble Urinating
  • Bright Red Blood or Clots in Your Urine Longer Than 24 Hours After Your Biopsy
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Pain at or Near the Biopsy Site
  • Redness, Bleeding, or Swelling from the Biopsy Site
  • Feeling Weak or Faint

Additionally, there is a risk of damage to the kidney and nearby tissues during a kidney biopsy.

Kidney Biopsy Results

Once your doctor collects a tissue sample from your kidney, he or she will send it to a lab, where a pathologist will examine it. If it turns out that your sample is free of defects and other issues, no further testing or treatment will be necessary. However, if the results come back abnormal, it may indicate one or more of the following:

  • Kidney Infection
  • Connective tissue disease like lupus
  • Kidney Cancer
  • Ineffective Kidney Transplant
  • Weakened Blood Flow to Your Kidneys
  • Severe Urinary Tract Infection

Depending on the results of your biopsy, your doctor may order more tests or develop a treatment plan for your condition.