A kidney biopsy procedure (also called renal biopsy) is performed when a physician suspects kidney disease based on observations of overall patient health and symptoms that appear in urine such as blood or excessive protein.
That’s not to say that every instance of blood in the urine indicates kidney disease. But taken with other symptoms, a kidney biopsy may be a very sensible precaution for people who have diabetes or high blood pressure and have some or most of these conditions:
- Changes in the amount of urine produced
- Cramps or chest pain
- Nausea, vomiting, or loss of appetite
- Fatigue or sleep problems
- Shortness of breath
A kidney biopsy procedure, which removes a small slice of one or both kidneys, reveals a lot about the state of the kidneys. This, in turn, helps treatment staff prepare a better-informed treatment plan. It’s also done to see how current treatment is progressing.
Preparing for a Kidney Biopsy Procedure – Disclose Your Health
A biopsy is not the same as surgery, but it does require some proactive prep on the part of the patient.
After obtaining a full medical history–including conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and bleeding problems like hemophilia–a patient should disclose all medication he or she takes, including supplements and current illegal drug use. This should be done at least a week before the biopsy.
Patients who hesitate to talk about this last item should request doctor-patient confidentiality, which is nearly universal. Absolute Advocacy, a substance abuse treatment service in North Carolina, provides a good overview of doctor-patient confidentiality.
Keep in mind it’s not just medications like Coumadin that thin the blood. Supplements like fish oil and ginkgo do so as well, and over-the-counter medications like pain relievers can prevent clotting. Be sure to review anything you take on a regular basis and ask what you should avoid in the days leading up to the biopsy.
If you think you may be pregnant, request a pregnancy test. If you are pregnant, it may be necessary to delay the procedure or take special precautions if you intend to continue the pregnancy.
Special Instructions for the Day Before Kidney Biopsy
The day before the biopsy procedure is a day to assess and prepare yourself.
- Check your skin for any signs of infection. Redness, itching, pain, and discharge from an open wound might mean you have an infection. Call your doctor and be prepared to provide a blood or urine sample.
- Read and sign the consent form, including those for children under age 18 who are under your care. An older child may want to read this as well; this is a good sign that he or she intends to comply with the treatment.
- Clean and shave the area that will be biopsied.
- Take medication prescribed by the doctor. Some physicians will prescribe an anti-anxiety medication if they and the patient agree it will be beneficial. But do not take any insulin if you’re diabetic.
- Don’t eat after midnight the night before the procedure. You may take medication the doctor has approved before the procedure along with a sip or two of water.
Finally, make sure someone will take you home and hang out with you for a few hours. A biopsy is a stressful event for most people. Be sure you both understand any post-procedure instructions and don’t hesitate to call the doctor’s office if either of you have any questions.