Is there a practical role for bone biopsy in chronic kidney disease?

Nephrology (Carlton). 2017 Mar:22 Suppl 2:22-26. doi: 10.1111/nep.13017.


Bone biopsy is currently the only means to accurately assess renal osteodystrophy and responses to therapeutic interventions. With sedation, the technique is relatively painless, and complications are uncommon. Bone biopsy should be considered when the aetiology of symptoms or biochemical abnormalities is in question, and results may lead to changes in therapy. Although it remains prudent to use antiresorptive drugs cautiously in patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) stages 3a-4 and low bone mineral density, bone biopsy may not be warranted before commencing therapy in these patients. Histomorphometric indices adopted for bone biopsy assessment are turnover (T), mineralisation (M) and volume (V). Often, only measurements of trabecular bone are reported; however, marked cortical changes are common in CKD and may be critical to bone structure and integrity. MicroCT of bone biopsies can rapidly assess static parameters and provides information on the cortical and trabecular compartments that may influence management. Limitations of bone biopsy include the time required for pre-biopsy tetracycline labelling and sample processing, and a paucity of facilities to process and report samples. Patients with CKD may not respond predictably to treatments, and because the biopsy sample is illustrative of activity at only one skeletal site and one point in time, assessment of real-time laboratory trends is always required. Optimally, we need a non-invasive 'virtual bone biopsy' that provides information for initiating and monitoring therapy. However, bone biopsy is the current standard by which the accuracy of investigational imaging techniques, hormonal values and biochemical turnover markers are judged.

Keywords: bone biopsy; histomorphometry; mineralization; renal osteodystrophy; turnover.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Biopsy
  • Bone Remodeling / physiology
  • Chronic Kidney Disease-Mineral and Bone Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / complications
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / metabolism
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / pathology*


  • Biomarkers