Daniel Wilson-Thomas

Kidney Biopsy

When I was told I needed a kidney biopsy I was visibly anxious. The doctor said he would prescribe me some Ativan right away to help with the anxiety. Turns out the anxiety wasn’t all that bad on the day of the procedure, and it wasn’t a hard procedure anyway.

Before the day of the biopsy, I actually spent a lot of time being nervous. The doctor described it to me but I really had no idea what to expect. This would be what I considered my first real time in a hospital since I was a baby. I ended up working remotely to get away from the office, as I felt more nervous and claustrophobic around all the people. To help with the nervousness, I decided to do some research. I didn’t find any videos of actual biopsies being performed, but I did find a few educational videos on the process and the tools that are used. Those were very helpful, because they stimulated in me a curiosity that displaced the nervousness.

On the actual day, I started my morning as I would any other morning, but since my husband and I didn’t have to leave for the hospital until later than I usually leave for work, I got to relax with some video games and my two dogs. Arriving at the hospital was quite smooth. We parked, walked in, and people guided us to where we should be. We did make a check in at the wrong station, though. We checked in first at the station where I’d have the biopsy done, but we needed to check in to Admitting as a patient since I would be staying overnight. All in all though it was smooth and we got a hospital bed pretty quickly. They came in, took some blood and put an IV line in, and then three hours later I was on my way to the biopsy room!

One of the stranger things about being in a hospital as a patient, is something called “Central Transport”. This was a group of people whose job seemed to be just ferrying patients and supplies around the hospital building. I’d never noticed them before in my visits to the hospital, but I thought it was a neat role and the human touch was welcome.

Time for the biopsy! As I said before, my nervousness had mostly been replaced by curiosity at this point. As they wheeled me in on the stretcher, everyone said hello and I was asking questions about all sorts of things. First I asked a bit about the structure of the kidney itself. Specifically, I was wondering about nerves and pain receptors, since some parts of the body have more or less of those. I learned that the kidney has both nerves and pain receptors! I also was asking questions about the tools, and was perhaps a little more enthusiastic about taking a look at the ultrasound machine than I should have been. The procedure itself involved mostly prep work. There was a lot of ultrasounding to find the best spot to insert the needle, followed by some cleaning to make sure everything was sterile. After that, there was one stick with what felt like a larger needle to inject a local anesthetic. That was actually the most painful part. The anesthetic burned when it was injected. It took effect very quickly, then the first pass with the biopsy needle went in. That was definitely a strange feeling. Mostly pressure, but there was some slight pain and discomfort at times. Each time a sample was taken there was a loud noise from the needle. That’s when something like a spring loaded scalpel shot out of the end, inside my kidney, and took a bite of the tissue. It startled me and I jumped every time. There were three of those, and then it was done. Besides the initial needle, I think the worst part was the amount of sweating I did. Because I was fully lucid with the needle inside of me, I was supremely focused on trying not to move at all. That’s surprisingly hard work! I ended up needing a towel for the pillow I was laying on.

Once it was over, the technician was kind enough to show me the ultrasound images she took. That was really interesting, but I wish I could have also seen the actual tissue samples. Then they wheeled me back to my room and normal hospital workings took over. I was able to get lunch, then they started taking my vitals every so often. First, it was every fifteen minutes, then every thirty, then every sixty. They have a nifty thermometer that they use, that is basically rubbed on your forehead and cheeks to take the temperature. I’d never seen anything like it before.

I was on bedrest at this point, which meant I couldn’t get out of bed but I could move around as much as I liked. This lasted until the next morning, about 18 hours in total, and was probably the worst part of the whole experience though there wasn’t any pain. I hadn’t really thought about it, but I wasn’t even allowed to get up to go use the bathroom. That’s actually very important after a kidney biopsy since the kidneys are responsible for producing urine. The doctors use that to help determine if there are any complications from the biopsy. There weren’t any complications in my case.

So morning comes around. I’m allowed out of bed finally and I get to go home. I was allowed to walk out of the hospital instead of requiring a wheelchair and it was at this point that the pain started. I would describe it as two pronged. At the biopsy site there was a little puncture wound, and there was a little sharp pain there whenever the skin stretched. More painful, though, was what felt like a bad workout injury where they had to go through all the muscles in my back with the biopsy needle. It was easily manageable with Tylenol, but still not very pleasant.

All in all it wasn’t as scary of a procedure as it sounded. The biopsy procedure itself was pretty quick, though unpleasant, and the worst part of the experience was the bedrest afterwards.