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A biopsy is done to remove tissue or cells from the body to exam under a microscope. The tissue sample is removed with a needle to check for cancer or other abnormal cells. It also helps check how well the kidney is working. 

There are 2 types of kidney biopsies: 

  • Needle biopsy. After an anesthetic is given, the healthcare provider inserts the biopsy needle into the kidney to get a sample. Most kidney biopsies are done using this technique.
  • Open biopsy. After an anesthetic is given, the healthcare provider makes an incision in the skin and surgically removes a piece of the kidney. 

If your healthcare provider wants to sample a specific area of the kidney, the biopsy may be guided by ultrasound, fluoroscopy, or computed tomography. 


There are multiple indications to perform renal biopsy, including the following: 

  • Unexplained renal failure
  • Acute nephritic syndrome
  • Nephrotic syndrome
  • Isolated nonnephrotic proteinuria
  • Isolated glomerular hematuria
  • Renal masses (primary or secondary)
  • Renal transplant rejection
  • Renal transplant dysfunction
  • Connective-tissue diseases (eg, systemic lupus erythematosus)

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