Although the kidney biopsy is a very thorough test that is able to provide a good assessment of kidney function, it isn't always the first option doctors go to in diagnosing kidney issues. Other procedures such as blood tests, urine sampling, ultrasound and CT scans are often done first. Only when these have been exhausted and there are still some unanswered questions, or the need to get a more definitive answer to a lingering unknown does the biopsy come into play.
Knowing the pros and cons of having a kidney biopsy should help explain why physicians often take this route.
- Gives a clear cut picture of what is happening, what is affecting the kidney, how much is functioning, amount of renal mass that is still working and any infection or malignancy, if present.
- It can find the cause of the kidney problem and tell what the best treatment will be.
- Biopsies enable you to avoid being given unnecessary treatment which could have side effects.
- The procedure is invasive, because there is penetration of the skin more risk is involved. The most common complication is bleeding. Another complication is possible damage to the kidney or other parts near it, if the kidney biopsy is done incorrectly. Though complications especially the latter one are very rare.
- A kidney biopsy is expensive. The procedure itself which uses an imaging machine, like an x-ray or CT scan, along with the testing and doctors' fees cost significantly more than regular blood tests.
- In a biopsy, the doctor will take a part of the kidney, so the sample may not be a complete representation of the health of all the tissues in the kidney. For this reason, some doctors may get elect to take a number of samples from different areas of the kidney during the procedure.