Incidence of malignancy in complex cystic renal masses (Bosniak category III): should imaging-guided biopsy precede surgery?

AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2003 Mar;180(3):755-8. doi: 10.2214/ajr.180.3.1800755.


Objective: Complex indeterminate renal cystic masses (Bosniak type III) can have benign and malignant causes and have been traditionally considered surgical lesions. We sought to determine the incidence of malignancy and to assess a possible role for imaging-guided biopsy for this category of renal masses.

Materials and methods: Three hundred ninety-seven renal biopsies were performed at our institution between 1991 and 2000. Between January 1997 and August 2000, 28 Bosniak category III lesions, based on established CT imaging criteria on helical CT scans, were identified for analysis. The incidence of malignancy, based on surgical pathology or imaging follow-up and percentage of lesions proceeding to surgery, among these 28 lesions, was determined. The surgical results were correlated with the biopsy findings.

Results: Of the 28 biopsied category III lesions, 17 (60.7%) were malignant (16 renal cell carcinomas and one lymphoma), and 11 (39.3%) were benign (six hemorrhagic cysts, three inflammatory cysts, one metanephric adenoma, and one cystic oncocytoma). Seventeen of the 28 lesions (16 renal cell carcinomas and one inflammatory cyst) had surgical resection after the biopsy. All resected lesions had pathologic diagnoses identical to the percutaneous imaging-guided biopsy results. The remaining 11 patients who had undergone nonsurgical biopsies had radiologic follow-up for a minimum of 1 year, with benign lesions showing no interval change.

Conclusion: Renal biopsy and radiologic follow-up were useful in identifying nonmalignant lesions in complex cystic renal masses and avoided unnecessary surgery in 39% of patients.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biopsy
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Kidney Diseases, Cystic / complications*
  • Kidney Diseases, Cystic / pathology
  • Kidney Diseases, Cystic / surgery
  • Kidney Neoplasms / complications*
  • Kidney Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Kidney Neoplasms / pathology
  • Kidney Neoplasms / surgery
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Preoperative Care
  • Sensitivity and Specificity