Kidney Cancer Diagnosis Biopsy

Doctors use a variety of medical tests to diagnose kidney disease. After performing a urinalysis to evaluate if your kidneys are functioning properly and an ultrasound to see if abnormal cells are present on your kidneys, your doctor will likely run a biopsy to determine whether or not these abnormal cells are malignant.

Through a biopsy, your doctor can diagnose kidney cancer, kidney failure or kidney disease.

Preparing for a Kidney Biopsy

Before your biopsy, your doctor will discuss the risks and benefits of having this procedure. He will explain what you need to do to prepare for the biopsy, what you can expect to happen during the procedure and what he hopes to learn from it. He will also discuss any side effects that you might experience after your biopsy.

To prepare for your biopsy, you will need to tell your doctor about any medications (both prescription and non-prescription) you are taking. You will also need to let him know about any supplements (vitamins, minerals, herbs, etc.) that you use. This is important because some supplements and medications may thin your blood, which could cause excess bleeding during or after the biopsy.

Also, notify your doctor if you are allergic to any medications or if you are or think you may be pregnant.

As with any surgical procedure, you will be asked to stop taking blood thinners (including ibuprofen, aspirin and vitamin E) from a few days to a few weeks before your kidney biopsy. Your doctor will also ask you to avoid food and drinks for eight hours before you are set to have the biopsy.

Types of Kidney Biopsies

There are three different types of biopsies. Your doctor will decide which biopsy he will perform based on what he suspects your condition to be:

  • Brush Biopsy: During a brush biopsy, a doctor inserts a catheter into your urethra. He then injects dye into the catheter. The dye will allow the doctor to locate the kidney on an X-ray. Once the kidney is located, the doctor will use a brush to take several samples of kidney tissue.

    In an updated version of this test, a doctor uses a device called a uteroscope (a lighted scope) to see inside the ureter and locate the kidney.

  • Open Biopsy: An open kidney biopsy is performed under general anesthetic. During the procedure, the doctor will make an incision in your back to remove a small piece of your kidney. An open biopsy is usually performed when your doctor suspects kidney cancer.
  • Percutaneous Biopsy: A percutaneous biopsy is typically performed under mild sedation. During the procedure, the area above the kidney is numbed with a painkiller injection. Next, the doctor inserts a long needle into your kidney to remove one or more samples. This procedure can cause some discomfort or pain.

    One disadvantage of this method is that if cancer does in fact affect the kidney, the needle may miss the tumor and the procedure may need to be repeated.

After the Biopsy

After the biopsy is completed, you may need to stay in the hospital overnight. Some minor complications can include blood in the urine, infection or back pain at the biopsy site. After you are released from the hospital, you will need to lie flat on your back for anywhere from 12 to 24 hours.

If you experience increased pain, fever, dizziness or blood in your urine for more than 24 hours after the biopsy, call your doctor immediately.

Depending upon the type of biopsy you had and the types of tests that are performed on the samples, you may get your biopsy results anywhere from a few days to a few weeks after the procedure.


National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Staff. (2005). Kidney biopsy. Retrieved on July 10, 2007, from National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Web site:

National Kidney Foundation Staff. (2007). Kidney biopsy. Retrieved on July 10, 2007, from Nation Kidney Foundation Web site: