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J Ultrasound Med. 2001 Jul;20(7):749-53; quiz 755.

Sonographically guided renal mass biopsy: indications and efficacy.

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  • 1Department of Radiology, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.



To review the clinical indications, pathologic results, and success rate of all our sonographically guided solid renal mass biopsies over a 5-year period.


Between 1993 and 1998, 44 consecutive patients underwent sonographically guided percutaneous biopsy of a solid renal mass. Indications included prior history of nonrenal malignancy, metastatic disease of unknown primary origin, previous contralateral nephrectomy for a renal cell neoplasm, a renal transplant mass, suspected renal lymphoma, history of tuberous sclerosis, and poor surgical candidacy. Aspiration biopsies were initially performed with 22- to 18-gauge spinal needles. If the initial cytologic evaluation findings were nondiagnostic, core biopsies were then performed with 20- to 18-gauge core biopsy guns. Dictated sonographic reports of the biopsies were reviewed to determine the following: indication for biopsy, location and size of the renal mass, needle gauge and type, number of needle passes, and complications. Final cytologic and surgical pathologic records were reviewed.


Thirty-six (82%) of the 44 biopsy specimens were diagnostic. Aspirated smears were diagnostic in 24 (67%) of these cases, with the diagnosis made on the basis of cell block alone in an additional 2 (6%). A definitive diagnosis came from core biopsy alone in 10 cases (28%). The 18-gauge core needle yielded diagnostic results more reliably than the 20-gauge core needle, and a significant correlation was seen between core biopsy needle size and the rate of diagnostic core samples (P = .017). Pathologic diagnoses included renal cell carcinoma (n = 18), lymphoma (n = 4), oncocytic neoplasm (n = 4), transitional cell carcinoma (n = 2), angiomyolipoma (n = 1), papillary cortical neoplasm (n = 1), and metastatic carcinoma (n = 6). Complications were seen in 4 (9%) of 44 cases; all were treated conservatively.


For specific clinical indications, sonographically guided fine-needle aspiration and core biopsy of a solid renal mass can be performed safely. In many cases, a definitive diagnosis can be made on the basis of fine-needle aspiration alone. However, diagnosis may ultimately require core biopsy, for which 18-gauge core needles would be more reliably diagnostic than 20-gauge needles.

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