Fine-needle aspiration of renal masses in adults: Analysis of results and diagnostic problems in 108 cases

Luan Truong, Teresa D. Todd, Bakula Dhurandhar, Ibrahim Ramzy

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75 Scopus citations


Fine-needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy of the kidney has a traditionally well-defined role in the diagnosis and treatment of renal lesions. Recent improvements in renal imaging techniques have also brought renal FNA to the forefront, since small and asymptomatic renal masses are increasingly being detected. Before the physician institutes a treatment plan, such lesions usually require a definitive diagnosis that is best provided by FNA. To assess various aspects of renal FNA, including specimen adequacy, questionable cytologic patterns, and diagnostic pitfalls, we retrospectively evaluate our experience with 108 FNA biopsies performed for the evaluation of renal masses in adults. For each case, the smears were reviewed and correlated with tissue sections from cell blocks, surgical specimens, or autopsy material, when available. The cytologic diagnoses were confirmed by cell block (59 cases), nephrectomy or autopsy (35 cases), or clinical follow- up. Of the 108 FNA biopsy samples, 17 showed evidence of blood, soft tissue, necrotic material, glomeruli, or tubular cells and were classified as unsatisfactory. The following diagnostic categories were noted in the 91 satisfactory aspirates: renal abscess (four cases), benign cyst (30 cases), suspicious lesions (11 cases), and malignant lesions (46 cases). In four cases of renal abscess, FNA found abundant clusters of neutrophils. For the 30 cases interpreted on cytologic evidence as benign cysts, the diagnosis was confirmed in 28 cases; the two remaining cases were acquired cystic kidney and cystic renal-cell carcinoma, respectively. Among the 11 suspicious lesions, the final diagnoses were one benign simple cyst, one angiomyolipoma, two multilocular cystic nephromas, two adult polycystic kidneys, one acquired cystic kidney, three cystic papillary renal-cell carcinomas, and one solid renal-cell carcinoma. Cases classified as suspicious shared characteristic cytologic patterns that distinguished them from simple benign cysts and from classic renal-cell carcinoma. Among the 46 malignant lesions, as evidenced on cytologic examination, 27 were renal-cell carcinomas, five were transitional- cell carcinomas, four were lymphomas, one was a small-cell undifferentiated carcinoma, and nine were metastatic carcinomas. False-positive or false- negative cases were not encountered in this category. In conclusion, FNA is an excellent method to diagnose space-occupying lesions of the kidney. For cystic lesions, cytologic-radiographic correlation is needed to avoid misinterpretation. Our study defines a spectrum of suspicious patterns characteristic of a group of renal lesions that are distinct from both benign simple cyst and straightforward renal malignancy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)339-349
Number of pages11
JournalDiagnostic Cytopathology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1999


  • Benign simple cyst
  • Complex renal cystic lesion
  • Fine-needle aspiration
  • Kidney
  • Renal-cell carcinoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy


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