How the Test is Performed

A kidney biopsy is the removal of a small piece of kidney tissue for examination.A kidney biopsy is done in the hospital. The two most common ways to do a kidney biopsy are percutaneous and open. These are described below.
Percutaneous biopsy

Percutaneous means through the skin. Most kidney biopsies are done this way. The procedure is usually done in the following way:

  • You may receive medicine to make you drowsy.
  • You lie on your stomach. If you have a transplanted kidney, you lie on your back.
  • The doctor marks the spot on the skin where the biopsy needle is inserted.
  • The skin is cleaned.
  • Numbing medicine (anesthetic) is injected under the skin near the kidney area.
  • The doctor makes a tiny cut in the skin. Ultrasound images are used to find the proper location. Sometimes another imaging method, such as CT, is used.
  • The doctor inserts a biopsy needle through the skin to the surface of the kidney. You are asked to take and hold a deep breath as the needle goes into the kidney.
  • If the doctor is not using ultrasound guidance, you may be asked to take several deep breaths. This allows the doctor to know the needle is in place.
  • The needle may be inserted more than once if more than one tissue sample is needed.
  • The needle is removed. Pressure is applied to the biopsy site to stop any bleeding.
  • After the procedure, a bandage is applied to the biopsy site.
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Open biopsy

In some cases, your doctor may recommend a surgical biopsy. This method is used when a larger piece of tissue is needed.

  • You receive medicine (anesthesia) that allows you to sleep and be pain-free.
  • The surgeon makes a small surgical cut (incision).
  • The surgeon locates the part of the kidney from which the biopsy tissue needs to be taken. The tissue is removed.
  • The incision is closed with stitches (sutures).

After percutaneous or open biopsy, you will likely stay in the hospital for at least 12 hours. You will receive pain medicines and fluids by mouth or through a vein (IV). Your urine will be checked for heavy bleeding. A small amount of bleeding is normal after a biopsy.