Biopsy - Kidney

This procedure involves the removal of a sample of kidney tissue to check for kidney diseases, including cancer.

This procedure involves the removal of a sample of kidney tissue to check for kidney diseases, including cancer.

The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs that are located on either side toward the back, just below the rib cage. One of the main functions of the kidneys is to filter the blood.

  • Filtering the blood removes wastes and extra water, which are then eliminated in our urine.
  • The urine flows down two tubes (ureters) to the bladder. It is stored in the bladder until it leaves the body when you urinate.

The kidneys, and the hormones they produce, have several important functions that include:

  • Helping with the maintenance of strong bones
  • Controlling blood pressure
  • Stimulation of the bone marrow to produce red blood cells
  • Controlling the level of electrolytes (like sodium or potassium) in your blood

A kidney biopsy is the removal of a sample of kidney tissue to check for kidney diseases. Your healthcare provider may recommend a kidney biopsy if you have symptoms of kidney disease or an abnormal imaging study. The biopsy will help determine if you have kidney disease, such as glomerulonephritis (inflammation of the parts of your kidneys that filter urine).

  • The most common reason for a kidney biopsy is to look for kidney diseases other than cancer.
  • Kidney cancer is diagnosed by the finding a solid mass on an X-ray or CT Scan. Solid renal masses on the kidney are most often cancerous.

It is not known what causes kidney cancer. However, there are several factors that may increase your risk.

  • Smoking - You are a smoker.
  • Family history - A family member has a history of kidney cancer.
  • Dialysis - You have a history of receiving dialysis.
  • Hypertension - You have a history of high blood pressure.
  • Certain kidney diseases - You have a history of a horseshoe shaped kidney or polycystic kidney disease.
  • Von Hippel-Lindau Disease - You have a history of this disease, which affects the blood vessels.

Some of the symptoms of kidney cancer include:

  • Pain in the abdomen, flank area and back
  • Blood in the urine
  • Swelling in the abdomen and, in men, around the testicles
  • Unexplained weight loss

It is important to remember that these symptoms can be caused by other conditions.

Contact your healthcare provider if you have any of the above symptoms. He or she will review your symptoms and perform a physical examination. They may also recommend one of the following tests:

  • An intravenous pyelogram (IVP)
  • A CT scan or other x-ray
  • Lab work and urine tests

Sometimes, a biopsy is needed to determine if an abnormality is cancer or another kidney disorder.

  • Most solid renal masses are treated without a biopsy.
  • Even if a minimally invasive procedure is done, a biopsy will usually be done at the time of the procedure.

If your kidney biopsy indicates you have kidney cancer, additional testing (CT scan, PET scan or MRI) may be needed. If your healthcare provider recommends a kidney biopsy, prior to the procedure tell them about any medications you are taking (including over-the-counter medications, herbal medications and supplements). You should also ask about specific instructions to follow before and after the procedure. These include:

  • Medications you should not take before the procedure, such as blood thinners
  • Regular medications you should continue to take on the day of your procedure
  • How many hours you should stop eating and drinking before the procedure
  • Activities you should avoid for a couple of weeks after the biopsy

The biopsy will likely be performed in a hospitals radiology department. Sometimes it is performed in an operating room. You may be given medication to help you relax.

  • Ultrasounds or other imaging procedures may be done to determine the best place to insert the needle.
  • During the biopsy, you will be lying face down with support placed under your abdomen to keep you in a specific position. You will also be told to take and hold a deep breath while the biopsy is being performed. The area will be numbed, but you will likely feel some discomfort during the procedure.
  • After the biopsy is finished, you will need to stay in bed for 12 to 24 hours. You will likely need to stay in the hospital overnight after a kidney biopsy.

There may be some blood in your urine after the test.

Contact your healthcare provider if you have symptoms of kidney disease. Be prepared to discuss your symptoms and how long you have had them.

  • Bring a copy of your medical history (past illnesses, surgeries, and hospitalizations).
  • Make a list of your medications (including over-the-counter).
  • Write down any questions, symptoms or concerns you want to talk about.
  • If your healthcare provider prescribes a medication for you, ask for a generic version. If your doctor thinks that a generic version is not right for you, ask for a medication on the lowest available tier of your Prescription Drug List (PDL).

What should I ask my healthcare provider before having a kidney biopsy?

  • What is the reason for the procedure? Are there any alternatives? What are the benefits and risks of each?
  • What are the possible complications for this procedure?
  • What happens if I do not go through with the procedure?
  • What is your experience in doing this type of procedure? What is your complication rate?
  • Will I need anesthesia? What are the possible side effects?
  • How will I feel after the procedure? Will I have to modify my activity?

After your procedure, you should know what you had done, what medication was given and what symptoms you should report to your healthcare provider after discharge. You should also understand all home care instructions (including medications and side effects) and follow-up plans. Your surgeon or nephrologist should also communicate with your primary care physician.


Also known as:

Needle Biopsy
Kidney Biopsy
Biopsy - Kidney
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