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J Urol. 2007 Aug;178(2):379-86. Epub 2007 Jun 11.

Techniques, safety and accuracy of sampling of renal tumors by fine needle aspiration and core biopsy.

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  • 1Department of Surgical Oncology (Division of Urology), Princess Margaret Hospital and University Health Network, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.



The incidence of renal cell carcinoma is increasing worldwide and there are new treatments for localized as well as metastatic tumors. The traditional role for percutaneous biopsy of renal masses has been limited, and so there is little general experience. There have been concerns about safety and accuracy. This review provides an update on the current techniques, indications and accuracy of needle biopsy of renal tumors.


PubMed and MEDLINE were searched for English language reports of percutaneous needle core biopsy and fine needle aspiration of renal tumors that were published from 1977 to 2006.


With the development of new biopsy techniques and wider experience with percutaneous probe ablation therapies the risk of tumor seeding appears negligible. Significant bleeding is unusual and almost always self-limiting. At centers with expertise needle core biopsy with or without fine needle aspiration appears to provide adequate specimens for an accurate diagnosis in more than 90% of renal masses.


Percutaneous biopsy of renal masses appears to be safe and it carries minimal risk of tumor spread. Urologists should consider increasing the indications for renal biopsy of small renal masses that appear to be renal cell carcinoma, especially in elderly and unfit patients. With more experience and followup preoperative biopsy has the potential to decrease unnecessary treatment since up to a third of small renal masses are now reported to be benign at surgery. Percutaneous biopsy may also allow a better selection of renal tumors for active surveillance and minimally invasive ablative therapies. Finally, there is potential for stratifying initial therapy for metastatic renal cell carcinoma by histological subtype and in the future molecular characteristics.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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