Kidney biopsy

During a kidney biopsy — also called renal biopsy — your doctor removes a small piece of kidney tissue to examine under a microscope for signs of damage or disease.

Your doctor may recommend a kidney biopsy to diagnose a suspected kidney problem, determine the severity of kidney disease or monitor treatment for kidney disease. You also may need a kidney biopsy if you've had a kidney transplant that's not working properly.

Most often, a doctor performs a kidney biopsy by inserting a thin needle through the skin — a procedure known as percutaneous kidney biopsy. An imaging device helps the doctor guide the needle into the kidney to remove tissue.

Why it's done Risks How you prepare What you can expect Results

A kidney biopsy may be done to:

  • Diagnose a kidney problem that can't otherwise be identified
  • Help develop treatment plans based on the kidney's condition
  • Determine how quickly kidney disease is progressing
  • Determine the extent of damage from kidney disease or another disease
  • Evaluate how well treatment for kidney disease is working
  • Find out why a transplanted kidney isn't working properly

Your doctor may recommend a kidney biopsy based on the results of blood or urine tests that show:

  • Blood in the urine (hematuria) that's localized to the kidney
  • Protein in the urine (proteinuria) that's excessive, rising or accompanied by other signs of kidney disease
  • Problems with kidney function, leading to excessive waste products in the blood

Not everyone with these problems needs a kidney biopsy. The decision is based on your signs and symptoms, test results, and overall health.

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