The early introduction of percutaneous renal biopsy in Italy

Giovanni B. Fogazzi, J. Stewart Cameron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background. Percutaneous renal biopsy, based on the use of an aspiration needle and the patient in the sitting position, was first described by Iversen and Brun in 1951. In 1954, Kark and Muehrcke described the use of the cutting Vim-Silverman needle on patients in the prone position, with a substantial improvement in the rate of success. The 1961 CIBA Foundation Symposium on renal biopsy marked the coming of age of this technique. During the 1950s in Italy, several individuals played a part in promoting and developing percutaneous renal biopsy. Because this pioneer work has received insufficient attention, we describe the contributions of Italians to the early introduction of this technique. Methods. The Italian and international literature about percutaneous renal biopsy of the period 1951 through 1965 was reviewed. In addition, structured interviews with surviving members of the Italian researchers who first used renal biopsy were conducted. Results. The first renal biopsies in Italy were performed in 1951 in Pisa by the group of Ernico Fiaschi (1913-1989). In their hands, renal biopsy became a tool to investigate the pathogenesis of renal diseases in particular, while simultaneously using the early application of immunofluorescence and electron microscopy. In 1954, Pietro Leonard! (1914-1991) and Arturo Ruol (born 1924) introduced renal biopsy in Padova; they used this technique extensively and published one of the first monographs on the subject. In 1957, Vittorio Bonomini (born 1928) introduced renal biopsy in Bologna, and in subsequent years used this technique to focus on the study of pyelonephritis. Conclusions. Our historical research shows that Italian groups were among the first to use and develop percutaneous renal biopsy both as a clinical tool and an investigative tool. This article gives international credit to their work.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1944-1950
Number of pages7
JournalKidney International
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1999


  • Biopsy
  • Italian renal biopsy
  • Kidney history

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nephrology


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