A kidney biopsy, is a procedure that is used to obtain small pieces of kidney tissue to look at under a microscope. It may be done to determine the cause, severity, and possible treatment of a kidney disorder. The procedure is generally safe and can provide valuable information about your kidney disease.
A kidney biopsy is recommended for certain people with kidney disease. It may be performed when other blood and urine tests cannot give enough information. The following are the most common reasons for kidney biopsy. You may have one or more of these problems, but not everyone with these problems needs a renal biopsy:
This occurs in many people with kidney problems. A renal biopsy may be recommended if you have high or increasing levels of protein in the urine or if you have proteinuria along with other signs of kidney disease.
If your kidneys suddenly or slowly stop functioning normally, a renal biopsy may be recommended, especially if the cause of your kidney problem is unclear.
Before your biopsy, you may need testing to see whether you have a blood clotting abnormality or infection. To decrease the risk of bleeding, you should stop taking medicines that increase the risk of bleeding (such as aspirin, aspirin-like compounds, ibuprofen, or naproxen) for one to two weeks before the biopsy. Review your medicines with your health care provider to determine which ones are safe to continue.
If you take warfarin (marevan), heparin, clopidogrel (Plavix), or other medicines that prevent blood clots, ask your clinician when to take these medications before your biopsy.
Renal biopsy is usually performed while you are awake, after a cleansing agent is applied, and you are given local anesthesia (numbing medicine) to minimize pain. The most common way to perform a biopsy is to use a needle, which is inserted through the skin and into the kidney.
In most cases, you will have an ultrasound scan so that the clinician knows exactly where to insert the needle. Once the needle is in the right position, the clinician will take a sample of tissue from the kidney with the needle.
After the biopsy, the kidney tissue will be sent to a specialized pathology laboratory and examined with a microscope. This microscopic examination is looking for scarring, infection, or abnormalities in the kidney tissue. The results of the microscopic exam are usually available within one to two weeks after the biopsy. In urgent situations, the results can be available within a few hours.
After a needle biopsy, you will be kept in a recovery or an observation unit for several hours to monitor for potential complications, including pain and bleeding. You may have blood drawn or repeat x-rays to monitor for bleeding. In some instances, you could go home after several hours of monitoring. Alternatively, you may be observed in the hospital overnight.
Once it is deemed safe for you to go home, you are not to perform any heavy lifting or vigorous exercise for one to two weeks. You should continue to avoid aspirin-like drugs or blood thinning medications for at least one week or until your clinician has instructed you that it is safe to take these.
Serious complications of renal biopsy are not common.
Less serious complications can occur and are short-lived. These can include bleeding, pain. Rare complications include infection, damage to blood vessels or other organs, or urine leaks.
Bleeding is the most common complication of renal biopsy. Many people may notice blood in their urine for several days after a renal biopsy. More severe bleeding occurring around the kidney or into the urine is uncommon, but if it occurs, you may need a blood transfusion. Very rarely, it may become serious and possibly require a procedure or surgery to stop the bleeding. If your urine is bright red or brown for longer than one week after your biopsy, call your health care provider.
Pain can occur after a renal biopsy. You can be given medications to reduce pain after the procedure, and the pain usually resolves within a few hours. If you have severe or prolonged pain, call your health care provider immediately.
Your health care provider is the best source of information for questions and concerns related to your medical problem.