Open Access Open Badges Research article

Percutaneous needle biopsy for indeterminate renal masses: a national survey of UK consultant urologists

Azhar A Khan1*, Iqbal S Shergill2, Sheila Quereshi2, Manit Arya2, Mohammed T Vandal2 and Sandeep S Gujral2

Author Affiliations

1 Bristol Urological Institute, Southmead Hospital, Bristol, UK

2 Department of Urology, Harold Wood Hospital, Essex, UK

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Urology 2007, 7:10  doi:10.1186/1471-2490-7-10

Published: 4 July 2007



The use of percutaneous needle biopsy in the evaluation of indeterminate renal masses is controversial and its role in management remains largely unclear. We set to establish current practice on this issue in UK urology departments.


We conducted a national questionnaire survey of all consultant urologists in the UK, to establish current practice and attitudes towards percutaneous needle biopsy in the management of indeterminate renal masses.


139 (43%) consultant urologists never use biopsy, whereas 111 (34%) always employ it for the diagnosis of indeterminate renal masses. 75 (23%) urologists use biopsy only for a selected patient group. Mass in a solitary kidney, bilateral renal masses and a past history of non-renal cancer were the main indications for use of percutaneous biopsy. The risk of false negative results and biopsy not changing the eventual management of their patients were the commonest reasons not to perform biopsy.


There is a wide and varied practice amongst UK Consultant Urologists in the use of percutaneous biopsy as part of the management of indeterminate renal masses. The majority of urologists believe biopsy confers no benefit. However there is a need to clarify this issue in the wake of recent published evidence as biopsy results may provide critical information for patients with renal masses in a significant majority. It not only differentiates benign from malignant tissue but can also help in deciding the management option for patients undergoing minimally invasive treatments.