Indian Journal of Nephrology About us |  Subscription |  e-Alerts  | Feedback | Login   
  Print this page Email this page   Small font sizeDefault font sizeIncrease font size
 Home | Current Issue | Archives| Ahead of print | Search |Instructions |  Editorial Board  

Users Online:249

Official publication of the Indian Society of Nephrology
 ~  Similar in PUBMED
 ~  Search Pubmed for
 ~  Search in Google Scholar for
 ~Related articles
 ~  Article in PDF (954 KB)
 ~  Citation Manager
 ~  Access Statistics
 ~  Reader Comments
 ~  Email Alert *
 ~  Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

   Materials and Me...
   Article Figures
   Article Tables

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded157    
    Comments [Add]    

Recommend this journal


  Table of Contents  
Year : 2020  |  Volume : 30  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 264-269

Gerontolizing nephrology: Spectrum of histopathological findings of kidney biopsy in the elderly

1 Department of Nephrology, SMS Medical College, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India
2 Department of Pathology, SMS Medical College, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

Date of Submission01-Sep-2019
Date of Acceptance10-Nov-2019
Date of Web Publication26-Feb-2020

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Shailendra K Singh
Department of Nephrology, Sawai Man Singh Medical College, Jaipur - 302 004, Rajasthan
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijn.IJN_275_19

Rights and Permissions


Introduction: The spectrum of renal disorder in the elderly differs from the younger population. There is a paucity of literature regarding kidney biopsy in elderly. This study aims to highlight the clinical profile and histopathological spectrum of the elderly patient undergoing a renal biopsy. Materials and Methods: This retrospective study included all patients (age ≥60 years) undergoing native renal biopsies from January 2012 to December 2017. The clinical profile, laboratory parameters, and renal biopsy findings of these patients were recorded from the case files. Results: Out of 1656 renal biopsies performed during the study period, 230 (13.9%%) performed on the elderly were included. Mean age was 64.02 ± 7.87 years (Range: 60-87 years), and males were predominant (70.4%). The commonest indication for biopsy was nephrotic syndrome (NS) (49.6%) followed by Rapidly progressive renal failure (RPRF) (20.9%) and Acute Kidney Injury (AKI) (15.7%). The most frequent histological diagnosis was membranous nephropathy (15.2%) followed by amyloidosis (13.9%) and Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) (13.0%). The commonest cause of NS was MGN (29.8%) followed by FSGS (24.6%) and amyloidosis (22.8%). The commonest cause of nephritic syndrome was Diffuse Proliferative Glomerulonephritis (29.4%) and Membranoproliferative Glomerulonephritis (29.4%). Hypertensive nephrosclerosis (40.0%) and diabetic nephropathy (26.7%)) were the commonest histological diagnosis in the patients who underwent renal biopsy for clinical Chronic kidney disease. Crescentic GN (35.4%) and Myeloma cast nephropathy 14.6%) were the commonest cause of RPRF while Acute Tubular Necrosis (41.7%) was the commonest cause of AKI. None of the patients had major complications. Conclusion: Renal biopsy is safe in the elderly and provides a wealth of information with regards to the diagnosis and prognosis of renal disorder.

Keywords: Elderly, India, nephrotic syndrome, renal biopsy

How to cite this article:
Beniwal P, Singh SK, Malhotra V, Agarwal D, Sharma M, Joshi P, Khandelwal S, Gaur N, Sharma S. Gerontolizing nephrology: Spectrum of histopathological findings of kidney biopsy in the elderly. Indian J Nephrol 2020;30:264-9

How to cite this URL:
Beniwal P, Singh SK, Malhotra V, Agarwal D, Sharma M, Joshi P, Khandelwal S, Gaur N, Sharma S. Gerontolizing nephrology: Spectrum of histopathological findings of kidney biopsy in the elderly. Indian J Nephrol [serial online] 2020 [cited 2021 Dec 6];30:264-9. Available from:

  Introduction Top

At present, the elderly population has been increasing tremendously all over the world. As per the United Nations, the elderly population is growing faster than the total population practically all over the world.[1] India is also facing the same trend. The elderly population (≥60 years) increased from 7.6% in the year 2000 to 9.7% of the total population in the year 2015.[2] It is a well-known fact that, as age advances, there is a progressive loss of renal mass and function.[3]

The spectrum of renal disorder in the elderly differs from the younger population. Secondary renal diseases are considered more common, owing to the presence of various comorbidities such as diabetes and hypertension.[4] Glomerulonephritis as a primary diagnosis may be missed in the elderly because of systemic presentation. Similarly, multiple myeloma has been incidentally diagnosed after observing cast nephropathy in the kidney biopsy.[5] Overall, glomerulopathies can account for up to 25% of cases of renal diseases in the elderly.[6]

In general, there is reluctance among physicians in doing kidney biopsy in the elderly, because of the fear of complications. Age should not be considered as a barrier to kidney biopsy. It is considered to be a safe procedure even in the elderly and yields valuable information regarding diagnosis and prognosis.[7] As per recent data, kidney biopsy in the elderly has led to a modification in treatment in up to 40–70% of patients.[8],[9],[10]

There is a paucity of Indian literature regarding kidney biopsy in the elderly. The aim of our study was to describe the etiology, clinical presentation, and histopathological spectrum of elderly patients undergoing native renal biopsy at a tertiary care center in northwest India.

  Materials and Methods Top

All patients (age ≥60 years) undergoing native renal biopsies from January 2012 to December 2018 were included in this retrospective study conducted at our hospital. Patients with renal allograft biopsy, repeat renal biopsy, inadequate renal biopsy for interpretation, and inadequate medical records were excluded.

Renal biopsy was performed by a percutaneous technique with ultrasound guidance using an automated biopsy gun with a 16-gauge needle by a trained nephrologist. In most of the cases, two cores were obtained; one was fixed in formalin to be evaluated by light microscopy and the other by immunofluorescence studies. All the renal biopsies were examined by a pathologist. The electron microscopy facility was not available at our center.

All patients had a pre-biopsy evaluation, which included medical history and review of medical records, physical examination, and evaluation of bleeding and coagulation parameters. Hypertension was controlled in patients with hypertension prior to biopsy. All patients were kept under observation for 24 hours following renal biopsy. Complications of the renal biopsy were noted. Those with macroscopic hematuria were kept under observation until urine became clear. Severe complications were defined as severe renal bleeding requiring blood transfusions, acute kidney injury (AKI) from obstruction with blood clots, urosepsis, and death.

The clinical presentation, biochemical parameters and urine examination findings of the patients were obtained from case files. The main clinical syndromes requiring kidney biopsy were defined as follows:

  1. Nephrotic syndrome was defined as proteinuria >3.5 g/day and hypoalbuminemia (<30 g/L) with clinical evidence of generalized edema
  2. The nephritic syndrome was defined as patients having hypertension and edema along with hematuria, proteinuria, and dysmorphic red blood cells/red blood cell casts;
  3. Rapidly progressive renal failure (RPRF), was defined as doubling of serum creatinine or a 50% decrease in glomerular filtration rate (GFR) over few weeks. Crescentic Glomerulonephritis (Crescentic GN) was defined as having >50% crescents in the biopsy
  4. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) was defined according to the KDIGO 2012 guidelines
  5. Acute kidney injury (AKI) was defined according to the KDIGO 2012 guidelines.

Statistical analysis was done in SPSS version 19.0. Percentages, mean and standard deviation were used to describe categorical and continuous variables, respectively.

  Results Top

During the study period, 1656 native renal biopsies were performed, of which 238 renal biopsies (14.4%) were performed on the elderly. Three (1.3%) biopsies were repeat renal biopsy and five (2.1%) biopsies were inadequate for interpretation and were not included in the analysis.

The mean age of the study population was 64.02 ± 7.87 years (range: 60–87 years). Males accounted for 70.4% (n = 162) of the study population. Among the study population, 25 (10.9%) had diabetes, 134 (58.3%) had hypertension, and 32 (13.9%) had malignancy (multiple myeloma: 27, prostate cancer: 2, colon cancer: 1, lymphoma: 1 and lung cancer: 1).

Nephrotic syndrome was the commonest indication of renal biopsy (n = 114, 49.6%) followed by RPRF (n = 48, 20.9%), and AKI (n = 36, 15.7%) [Table 1]. The commonest histological diagnosis was membranous nephropathy (MGN) (n = 35, 15.2%) followed by amyloidosis (n = 32, 13.9%), and focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) (n = 30, 13.0%) [Figure 1].
Table 1: Clinical syndrome and histological diagnosis in the elderly

Click here to view
Figure 1: Histopathological diagnosis in the study population

Click here to view

The most common histological finding in patients with nephrotic syndrome patients was MGN (n = 34, 29.8%) followed by FSGS (n = 28, 24.6%) and amyloidosis (n = 26, 22.8%) [Figure 2]a. The commonest cause of nephritic syndrome was diffuse proliferative glomerulonephritis (DPGN) (n = 5, 29.4%) and membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis (MPGN) (n = 5, 29.4%) followed by IgA nephropathy (n = 3, 17.6%) [Figure 2]b. Hypertensive nephrosclerosis (n = 6, 40.0%), diabetic nephropathy (n = 4, 26.7%), and amyloidosis (n = 2, 13.3%) were the commonest histological diagnosis in the patients who underwent renal biopsy for CKD [Figure 2]c. Crescentic GN (n = 17, 35.4%) and myeloma cast nephropathy, (n = 7, 14.6%) were the commonest cause of RPRF, [Figure 2]d while acute tubular necrosis (ATN) (n = 15, 41.7%), and acute interstitial nephritis (AIN) (n = 7, 19.4%) were the commonest cause of AKI [Figure 2]e.
Figure 2: (a) Renal biopsy findings in Nephrotic Syndrome. (b) Renal biopsy findings in Nephritic Syndrome. (c) Renal biopsy findings in Chronic Kidney Disease. (d) Renal biopsy findings in Rapidly Progressive Renal Failure. (e) Renal biopsy findings in Acute Kidney Injury

Click here to view

Among the primary glomerular diseases, three were positive for HBsAg (all three had MGN), two were infected with the hepatitis C virus (both had MGN), and one was infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Eight (42.1%) patients with MCD had exposure to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) prior to the onset of illness.

Five patients had solid organ malignancies. Three (prostate cancer: 2, colon cancer: 1) had MGN, one with lymphoma had crescentic GN, and the other with lung cancer had ATN. About 27 (11.7%) patients had multiple myeloma. Cast nephropathy was present in 12 (44.4%) patients; 5 (18.5%) patients had monoclonal immunoglobulin deposition diseases (MIDD), 7 (25.9%) had primary amyloid while 3 (11.1%) had ATN. Four (14.8%) patients of multiple myeloma were retrospectively diagnosed, the initial clue being provided by renal biopsy.

Fourteen (56.0%) patients with diabetes had renal histology consistent with diabetic nephropathy while 11 (44.0%) had nondiabetic kidney disease, the most common being ATN (n = 4) followed by MGN (n = 3), FSGS (n = 2), and IgA nephropathy (n = 2). The majority of the patients with amyloidosis had secondary amyloidosis (n = 25, 78.1%). The most common etiology being tuberculosis (n = 16, 64%) followed by bronchiectasis (n = 5, 25%) and others (n = 4, 16%). Primary amyloidosis was diagnosed in seven (21.9%) patients who were diagnosed to have multiple myeloma.

Crescentic GN (n = 17, 35.4%) was the most common cause of RPRF. Among crescentic GN patients, 7 were pANCA, 2 were cANCA, 2 were both cANCA and pANCA positive, 3 were ANCA negative, and 3 had the anti-GBM disease. The most common cause of ATN was sepsis (n = 11, 64.7%) followed by drug (n = 3, 17.6%). Four (50%) patients with AIN had a history of NSAID or antibiotic exposure before the onset of illness.

Only six patients had macroscopic hematuria following renal biopsy, all of which resolved with conservative treatment. No major complications were noted post-biopsy.

  Discussion Top

A kidney biopsy is considered the gold standard for establishing the diagnosis of renal parenchymal diseases.[11],[12] There is a scarcity of Indian literature in terms of biopsy data in the elderly.[6],[7] The possible reasons could be the perception of increased risk of complications in the elderly. Many glomerular diseases, as well as conditions like cast nephropathy, can be missed initially, given comorbidillnesses such as diabetes and hypertension which are common in the elderly. Previously, in view of the lack of data, glomerulonephritis was considered to be less common in the elderly, and they were not usually subjected to diagnostic or therapeutic interventions.[13] Over time, views have changed, and nowadays, even renal transplantation is performed easily in the elderly.[14] Thus biopsy in the elderly is necessary not only for diagnosis but also to guide appropriate therapeutic intervention.

Our study hopes to fulfill this lacuna and provide data regarding kidney diseases and indications of biopsy in the elderly [Table 1]. Almost 14% of the patients undergoing renal biopsy at our center were elderly. This is lower than the study from south India, which reported 30% elderly in their biopsy cohort[15] but is higher than that reported from north India[16],[17] [Table 2]. This proportion of the elderly population is lower than those of developed countries like Europe and the USA, where it contributes to about 23% and 25% of kidney biopsies, respectively.[18],[19] The reason could be a relative increase in the elderly population in the developed world and better healthcare access.
Table 2: Comparison with other studies

Click here to view

Males dominated our biopsy cohort making up to 70%, a finding noted by other Indian studies as well.[15],[16],[17] Nephrotic syndrome was the most common indication for elderly patients to undergo renal biopsy, a finding consistent with other Indian [Table 2] and western studies.[18],[20] MGN was the commonest cause of nephrotic syndrome followed by amyloidosis. MGN has been reported as a common cause of nephrotic syndrome in most of the Indian literature [Table 2] and western studies.[21],[22],[23] A study conducted at our center has also reported MGN to be the most common cause of nephrotic syndrome in patients with age >40 years.[24] Amyloidosis was the second most common cause of nephrotic syndrome [Table 2]. It has also been quoted as the most common cause by a few studies.[17],[25] The majority of these patients had secondary amyloidosis (78%), secondary to chronic diseases like tuberculosis and bronchiectasis. This is in contrast to the developed world where primary amyloidosis is more common. Secondary amyloidosis has also been found as a common cause of nephrotic syndrome from other Indian studies [Table 2].

The most common cause of nephritic syndrome was MPGN and DPGN. IgA nephropathy, a common cause of nephritic syndrome in young patients and the elderly Asian population of Japan and China,[25],[26],[27] was less common in our population.

RPRF was the second most common indication of renal biopsy. Crescentic GN, similar to other studies from northern India [Table 2] was the most common cause. In our study, pANCA positive pauci-immune crescentic GN was the most common cause of crescentic GN. However, studies from south India and east India[15],[28],[29] had found a low incidence of crescentic GN. This could be due to regional variations in the presentation of disease in the elderly. Cast nephropathy was the sec ond most common cause of RPRF, similar to other Indian studies.[17] Hypertensive nephrosclerosis and diabetic nephropathy were the most common histological findings in patients undergoing biopsy for the diagnosis of chronic kidney disease. Forty-four percent of the diabetic patients had nondiabetic kidney disease, the commonest being ATN and membranous nephropathy, a diagnosis that has an implication on the management of these patients.

The elderly population is more prone to AKI because of anatomical changes, physiological decrease in GFR, and numerous factors such as exposure to contrast medium in angiography, nephrotoxic medications, atheroemboli, dehydration, and hypotension.[30] AKI was the third common indication for biopsy in our study, accounting for 13% of all biopsies performed, which is comparable to other Indian studies.[15],[16] Sepsis, acute interstitial nephritis, and ATN due to NSAIDs were the common cause of AKI.

Kidney biopsy was pretty safe in our study, with only 2.6% of patients developing macroscopic hematuria. None of the patients developed any serious complication, highlighting the safety of renal biopsy in elderly patients as well.

Our study has few limitations. First, the retrospective design limits the amount of data that could be procured by medical records. Being a tertiary care center, most of the cases are referred primarily by physicians and might not depict the true profile of the renal disease in the elderly. Also, many patients refuse biopsy considering age and some are already on empirical immunosuppressive therapy prior to biopsy.

To conclude, renal biopsy is safe in the elderly and provides a wealth of information with regards to the diagnosis and prognosis of renal disorder.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

National Institutes of Health (NIH). World's older population grows dramatically (2020). Available at: [Last accessed 2020 Jan 04].  Back to cited text no. 1
United Nations. ESA/P/WP. 241. Department of Economics and Social Affairs, Population Division 2015. World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision, Key Findings and Advance Tables. United Nations; 2015.  Back to cited text no. 2
Tauchi H, Tsuboi K, Okutomi J. Age changes in the human kidney of the different races. Gerontologia 1971;17:87-97.  Back to cited text no. 3
Samiy AH. Renal disease in the elderly. Med Clin North Am 1983;67:463-80.  Back to cited text no. 4
Border WA, Cohen AH. Renal biopsy diagnosis of clinically silent multiple myeloma. Ann Intern Med 1980;93:43-6.  Back to cited text no. 5
Prakash J, Saxena RK, Sharma OP, Usha. Spectrum of renal diseases in the elderly: Single center experience from a developing country. Int Urol Nephrol 2001;33:227-33.  Back to cited text no. 6
Kohli HS, Jairam A, Bhat A, Sud K, Jha V, Gupta KL, et al. Safety of kidney biopsy in elderly: A prospective study. Int Urol Nephrol 2006;38:815-20.  Back to cited text no. 7
Nair R, Bell JM, Walker PD. Renal biopsy in patients aged 80 years and older. Am J Kidney Dis 2004;44:618-26.  Back to cited text no. 8
Moutzouris DA, Herlitz L, Appel GB, Markowitz GS, Freudenthal B, Radhakrishnan J, et al. Renal biopsy in the very elderly. Clin J Am Soc Nephrol 2009;4:1073-82.  Back to cited text no. 9
Yoon HE, Shin MJ, Kim YS, Choi BS, Kim BS, Choi YJ, et al. Clinical impact of renal biopsy on outcomes in elderly patients with nephrotic syndrome. Nephron Clin Pract 2011;117:c20-7.  Back to cited text no. 10
Reisman L, Dikman S, Churg J, Kupfer S. Renal biopsy: Why and when. Mt Sinai J Med 1996;63:178-90.  Back to cited text no. 11
Madaio MP. Renal biopsy. Kidney Int 1990;38:529-43.  Back to cited text no. 12
Abrass CK. Glomerulonephritis in the elderly. Am J Nephrol 1985;5:409-18.  Back to cited text no. 13
Rao PS, Merion RM, Ashby VB, Port FK, Wolfe RA, Kayler LK. Renal transplantation in elderly patients older than70 years of age: Results from the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients. Transplantation 2007;83:106974. doi: 10.1097/ 0000259621.56861.31.  Back to cited text no. 14
Koshy PJ, Parthsarathy R, Mathew M, Prabakaran R, Kuruvilla S, Abraham G. Interpretation of kidney biopsy in indian patients older than 60 years: A tertiary care experience. Indian J Nephrol 2018;28:198-202.  Back to cited text no. 15
[PUBMED]  [Full text]  
Bagchi S, Mittal P, Singh G, Agarwal SK, Singh L, Bhowmik D, et al. Pattern of biopsy-proven kidney disease in the elderly in a tertiary care hospital in India: A clinicopathological study. Int Urol Nephrol 2016;48:553-60.  Back to cited text no. 16
Gupta P, Rana DS. Importance of renal biopsy in patients aged 60 years and older: Experience from a tertiary care hospital. Saudi J Kidney Dis Transpl 2018;29:140-4.  Back to cited text no. 17
[PUBMED]  [Full text]  
Rivera F, López-Gómez JM, Pérez-García R. Clinicopathologic correlations of renal pathology in Spain. Kidney Int 2004;66:898-904.  Back to cited text no. 18
Haas M, Spargo BH, Wit EJ, Meehan SM. Etiologies and outcome of acute renal insufficiency in older adults: A renal biopsy study of 259 cases. Am J Kidney Dis 2000;35:433-47.  Back to cited text no. 19
Ferro G, Dattolo P, Nigrelli S, Michelassi S, Pizzarelli F. Clinical pathological correlates of renal biopsy in elderly patients. Clin Nephrol 2006;65:243-7.  Back to cited text no. 20
Verde E, Quiroga B, Rivera F, López-Gómez JM. Renal biopsy in very elderly patients: Data from the Spanish Registry of Glomerulonephritis. Am J Nephrol 2012;35:230-7.  Back to cited text no. 21
Zhu P, Zhou FD, Zhao MH. The renal histopathology spectrum of elderly patients with kidney diseases: A study of 430 patients in a single Chinese center. Medicine 2014;93:e226.  Back to cited text no. 22
Davison AM, Johnston PA. Glomerulonephritis in the elderly. Nephrol Dial Transplant 1996;11(Suppl 9):34-7.  Back to cited text no. 23
Beniwal P, Pursnani L, Sharma S, Garsa RK, Mathur M, Dharmendra P, et al. A clinicopathologic study of glomerular disease: A single-center, five-year retrospective study from Northwest India. Saudi J Kidney Dis Transpl 2016;27:997-1005.  Back to cited text no. 24
[PUBMED]  [Full text]  
Harmankaya O, Okuturlar Y, Kocoglu H, Kaptanogullari H, Yucel SK, Ozkan H, et al. Renal biopsy in the elderly: A single-center experience. Int Urol Nephrol 2015;47:1397-401.  Back to cited text no. 25
Komatsuda A, Nakamoto Y, Imai H, Yasuda T, Yanagisawa MM, Wakui H, et al. Kidney diseases among the elderly--A clinicopathological analysis of 247 elderly patients. Intern Med 1993;32:377-827.  Back to cited text no. 26
Yang F, Li B, Cui W, He C, Liu S, Guo Q, et al. A clinicopathological study of renal biopsies from 288 elderly patients: Analysis based on 4,185 cases. Int Urol Nephrol 2015;47:327-33.  Back to cited text no. 27
Das U, Dakshinamurty KV, Prayaga A. Pattern of biopsy-proven renal disease in a single center of south India: 19 years experience. Indian J Nephrol 2011;21:250-7.  Back to cited text no. 28
[PUBMED]  [Full text]  
Golay V, Trivedi M, Abraham A, Roychowdhary A, Pandey R. The spectrum of glomerular diseases in a single center: A clinicopathological correlation. Indian J Nephrol 2013;23:168-75.  Back to cited text no. 29
[PUBMED]  [Full text]  
Yilmaz R, Erdem Y. Acute kidney injury in the elderly population. Int Urol Nephrol 2010;42:259-71.  Back to cited text no. 30


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]

  [Table 1], [Table 2]


Print this article  Email this article


Indian Journal of Nephrology
Published by Wolters Kluwer - Medknow
Online since 20th Sept '07