Kidney Biopsy

(Renal Biopsy)


A kidney biopsy is the removal of a small piece of kidney tissue or cells. The tissue or cells are checked in a lab.

The Kidneys

Kidney ureter
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Reasons for Procedure

Kidney biopsies can help diagnose health conditions.

You may need one if you have:

  • Blood in the urine
  • High levels of protein in the urine
  • Kidneys that don't work as they should
  • A growth or cyst on the kidney
  • A kidney infection

A treatment plan can be made once the cause of the problems is determined.

A biopsy can tell how well the new kidney is working if you had a transplant.

Possible Complications

Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. Your doctor will review a list of possible problems such as:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Pain

Smoking may make the chances of having these problems higher.

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

  • Before the biopsy, your doctor may order urine tests, blood tests, and x-rays of your kidneys.
  • Arrange for a ride home after your biopsy.
  • Your doctor may ask you to fast or eat lightly before your biopsy.
  • Talk to your doctor about your medicines. You may be asked to stop taking them up to 1 week in advance.


You will receive a local anesthetic to numb your skin. You may also receive a light sedative.

Description of Procedure

A local anesthetic will be placed neart the biopsy site. The kidney will be found using an ultrasound or x-ray. Long needles will be inserted to collect tissue samples. A special instrument may be used to insert the needles. You may be asked to hold your breath. After the samples are collected, a bandage will be placed on your skin.

How Long Will It Take?

About an hour

How Much Will It Hurt?

The local anesthetic will block the pain during the biopsy. Medicines will ease any pain afterwards.

Post-procedure Care

At the Care Center

You'll be watched for a few hours. You will be asked to remain lying down to lower the chance of bleeding. Your pulse and blood pressure will be checked. You will be sent home when you are feeling well and the doctor feels that it's safe.

At Home

You may have to avoid lifting or exercise until the area is healed. Clean the incision site as advised to avoid infection.

Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if any of these occur:

  • Bloody urine 24 hours after biopsy or a lot of blood in the urine
  • Problems passing urine
  • Signs of infection such as fever or chills
  • Lightheadedness
  • Pain that is worse at biopsy site
  • Pain that you can't control with the medicines you were given
  • A constant urge to pass urine
  • Pain or burning when you pass urine
  • Redness or drainage at biopsy site

If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.


National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
National Kidney Foundation


The Kidney Foundation of Canada


Heilbrun ME, Remer EM, Casalino DD, et al. ACR Appropriateness Criteria indeterminate renal mass. J Am Coll Radiol. 2015;12(4):333-341.
Kidney biopsy. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: Accessed January 29, 2021.
Tests for kidney cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: Accessed January 29, 2021.
6/2/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance
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Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, Kelly S, Wu P, Ebbert JO. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.
Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 1/29/2021

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