The protocol biopsy strategy has been criticized because of risks and marginal utility. We tested the risk. We performed 1171 protocol biopsies in 508 patients at 6, 12 and 26 weeks after renal transplantation, as well as 499 biopsies as indicated in 429 transplant patients. Biopsies were done as an outpatient procedure using an 18- or 16-gauge automated biopsy needle followed by 4 h bed rest. Complications were: gross hematuria 3.5%, perirenal hematomas 2.5%, arterio-venous fistulas 7.3% and vasovagal reactions 0.5%. Major complications requiring invasive procedures such as blood transfusions or urinary catheter were seen in 1% of cases. The hospitalization rate for observation was 1.9%. According to the Banff criteria of specimen adequacy, biopsies with 18-gauge needles yielded >7 glomeruli and at least one artery in 53% of cases. Changing the needle size in October 2003, those biopsies done with 16-gauge needles yielded >7 glomeruli and at least one artery in 76% of cases, while the rate of major complications did not change. In conclusion, transplant protocol biopsies with 16-gauge needles provide better utility and similar risk as biopsies with 18-gauge needles. A 4-h recovery after biopsy appears adequate for discharge.