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How is a kidney biopsy performed?

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Doctors perform a kidney biopsy by inserting a thin needle through the skin, using an imaging device for guidance, then retrieving a small piece of kidney tissue for a laboratory to examine under a microscope, explains Mayo Clinic. A doctor may recommend this procedure to diagnose a kidney problem, determine the extent of a patient's kidney disease, or monitor the effectiveness of treatment.

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Kidney biopsies take place at an outpatient care center or a hospital and last approximately one hour, says Mayo Clinic. The patient remains awake, receives an IV, and lies in a position that allows the doctor to reach the kidney. Using a local anesthetic, the doctor makes an incision, then guides the needle in toward the kidney, using an ultrasound for guidance. To obtain an adequate amount of tissue for testing, the doctor may need to insert the needle multiple times. After retrieving the desired amount of kidney tissue, the doctor closes the incision and places a bandage over it.

Most patients go home the same day, but they do need to rest approximately 12 to 24 hours following the procedure, advises Mayo Clinic. The patient may experience soreness or pain at the biopsy site for a few hours, but also receives pain medicine for relief.

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