Silas Norman Content written on and updated on May 29, 2020 - Medically reviewed by Silas Prescod Norman, MD

One way your doctor can see if your kidneys are damaged is to do a kidney biopsy. A kidney biopsy is a procedure where your doctors take a very small piece of your kidneys to look at it closely under a microscope.

Why have a kidney biopsy?

Your doctor may need to do a kidney biopsy to find out why your kidneys are not working well or why there is blood or protein in your urine. While a blood test and a urine test are the most common ways to test for kidney disease, a kidney biopsy can tell your doctor if you have other rare conditions that are damaging your kidneys, such as focal segmental glomerular sclerosis (FSGS)

Doctors also use kidney biopsies to:

  • Monitor how quickly kidney damage is getting worse
  • Check how well your transplanted kidney is working
  • Find out why your transplanted kidney is not working properly
  • Create treatment plans based on the condition of your kidneys
  • Find out how well treatments are working
  • Diagnose cancer

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How is a kidney biopsy done?

There are two types of kidney biopsies: a percutaneous and a laparoscopic. Your doctor will decide which option is best for you.

Percutaneous Biopsy

The most common type of biopsy is a percutaneous biopsy. In this procedure, your doctor makes a small cut in your belly or back and uses a thin, hollow needle to remove tiny samples of your kidney tissue. During the procedure, you will be awake but your doctor will use medicine to numb your skin so that you do not feel as much discomfort.

Laparoscopic Biopsy

If you have bleeding problems, a blood clot disorder, or only one kidney, your doctor may use a biopsy procedure called a laparoscopic biopsy. In this procedure, your doctor makes a small cut and inserts a thin tube with a video camera at the tip, called a laparoscope, to look at your kidney. The laparoscope allows your doctor to watch for bleeding during the procedure, and stop it if needed. Your doctor can also remove small samples of the kidney through the tube. A laparoscopic biopsy requires anesthesia, which means that you will not be awake and will not feel anything during the procedure.

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How do I get ready for a kidney biopsy?

If your doctor thinks you need a kidney biopsy, they will schedule an appointment and take time to discuss the procedure with you. They may tell you stop taking certain medicines that can increase the risk of bleeding during or after the procedure. They may also tell you not to drink or eat hours before the procedure.

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What can I expect after a kidney biopsy?

After the biopsy, you may feel some pain or soreness near the cut. In most cases, you will be able to go home a few hours after the procedure is finished. Occasionally, patients may have to stay at the hospital overnight. You should be able to return to most of your normal daily activities after 24 hours of rest. Your doctor will have the results from your biopsy within a week.

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