Renal biopsy in the elderly and very elderly: useful or not?

Adv Chronic Kidney Dis. 2012 Mar;19(2):61-7. doi: 10.1053/j.ackd.2011.09.003.


Longer life expectancy has led to a growing epidemic of kidney disease in the elderly (aged ≥ 65 years) and very elderly (aged ≥ 80 years). While much of the rising burden of kidney disease in these age-groups can be attributed to age-associated decline and a high prevalence of comorbidities such as hypertension and diabetes mellitus, a significant proportion of kidney disease is due to potentially reversible causes of injury in the glomerular, tubulointerstitial, and vascular compartments. A renal biopsy is crucial not only to diagnose such potentially reversible lesions but also to provide prognostic information and guide therapeutic decisions. In this review, we survey the literature on renal biopsy in the elderly and very elderly, focusing on the utility and safety of this procedure. We report the most common histopathologic findings in these age-groups and demonstrate that many of these lesions are associated with diseases that respond to appropriate therapies, regardless of age. We conclude that, in a variety of commonly encountered clinical situations, a renal biopsy is crucial for appropriate management of elderly and very elderly patients with kidney disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biopsy
  • Chronic Disease
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / pathology
  • Kidney / pathology*
  • Kidney Diseases / pathology*