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Needle Biopsy of the Kidney: Before Your Procedure

Location of kidneys in lower back, with detail showing biopsy needle put into kidney for biopsy.

What is a kidney biopsy?

A biopsy is a procedure to collect small pieces of tissue to look at under a microscope. A kidney biopsy may be done to check for problems or when other tests show a kidney problem. For example, you may get one if a test shows that you have blood or protein in your urine. The biopsy is usually done by putting a long, thin needle through the back and into the kidney. The doctor may do several biopsies to make sure there is a good sample.

The doctor may use ultrasound or a CT scan to guide the needle during the biopsy. The area will be made numb during the procedure.

The biopsy itself will take 15 to 30 minutes. The whole procedure will take about an hour.

After the procedure, you'll stay in the hospital for several hours to make sure there are no problems. Most people can go home the same day. You will need someone to drive you home.

How do you prepare for the procedure?

Procedures can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your procedure.

Preparing for the procedure

  • You will need to stop eating and drinking before the procedure. Your doctor will give you instructions.
  • Be sure you have someone to take you home. Medicines you get during the procedure will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
  • Talk to your doctor when you have questions about what procedure is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell your doctor ALL the medicines and natural health products you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your procedure. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the procedure and how soon to do it.
  • If you take aspirin or some other blood thinner, ask your doctor if you should stop taking it before your procedure. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do. These medicines increase the risk of bleeding.
  • Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance care plan. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It's a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.

What happens on the day of the procedure?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your procedure may be cancelled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of the procedure, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your procedure. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Take off all jewellery and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital

  • Bring a picture ID and your Alberta Personal Health Card.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your healthcare team. You may get medicine that relaxes you or puts you in a light sleep. The area being worked on will be numb.
  • You will be asked to lie on an examination table on your side or stomach.
  • During the biopsy, you may be asked to hold your breath for several seconds. This makes sure that your kidney doesn't move during the biopsy.
  • The biopsy will take about 15 to 30 minutes. The whole procedure will take about an hour.
  • After the biopsy, you will rest in bed for several hours.
  • If no problems develop, you will be able to go home.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your procedure.
  • You become ill before the procedure (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the procedure.

Where can you learn more?

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