Bosniak Classification of Cystic Renal Masses, Version 2019: An Update Proposal and Needs Assessment

Radiology. 2019 Aug;292(2):475-488. doi: 10.1148/radiol.2019182646. Epub 2019 Jun 18.


Cystic renal cell carcinoma (RCC) is almost certainly overdiagnosed and overtreated. Efforts to diagnose and treat RCC at a curable stage result in many benign neoplasms and indolent cancers being resected without clear benefit. This is especially true for cystic masses, which compared with solid masses are more likely to be benign and, when malignant, less aggressive. For more than 30 years, the Bosniak classification has been used to stratify the risk of malignancy in cystic renal masses. Although it is widely used and still effective, the classification does not formally incorporate masses identified at MRI or US or masses that are incompletely characterized but are highly likely to be benign, and it is affected by interreader variability and variable reported malignancy rates. The Bosniak classification system cannot fully differentiate aggressive from indolent cancers and results in many benign masses being resected. This proposed update to the Bosniak classification addresses some of these shortcomings. The primary modifications incorporate MRI, establish definitions for previously vague imaging terms, and enable a greater proportion of masses to enter lower-risk classes. Although the update will require validation, it aims to expand the number of cystic masses to which the Bosniak classification can be applied while improving its precision and accuracy for the likelihood of cancer in each class.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Kidney / diagnostic imaging
  • Kidney Neoplasms / classification*
  • Kidney Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Needs Assessment
  • Ultrasonography / methods*