by Diana Kohnle
In a radical nephrectomy, the whole kidney is removed. In a partial nephrectomy, only a piece of the kidney is removed.
Reasons for Procedure
Kidney removal may need to be done because of:
Possible Complications TOP
Complications are rare. But, no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have a nephrectomy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
What to Expect TOP
Prior to Procedure
Your blood type is checked. This is done in case a transfusion is needed before or after surgery.
Talk to your doctor about your medicines. You may be asked to stop taking some medicines up to one week before the procedure, like:
Do not eat or drink after midnight before the procedure. You may need to take medicine to cleanse your bowels.
General anesthesia will be given. You will be asleep.
Description of Procedure
A catheter (tube) will be inserted. An incision will be made in the abdomen or side of the abdomen. A rib may need to be removed to access the kidney. The ureter (tube from the kidney to the bladder) and blood vessels will be cut if the whole kidney is being removed. The kidney (or part of the kidney) will then be removed. The incision will be closed.
Laparoscopic surgery may also be used for a nephrectomy. The abdominal cavity will be inflated with gas. Several keyhole incisions are made in the area. A laparoscope, a long tool with a camera on the end, will be inserted through one of the holes. This allows the doctor to see inside you. Tools will be inserted through the other holes to perform the surgery. The same steps will be used to detach the kidney. A small incision will be made to remove the kidney.
How Long Will It Take?
Between 2-4 hours
How Much Will It Hurt?
Anesthesia will prevent pain during the surgery. Recovery is usually painful because of the location of the incision. The laparoscopic approach is much less painful. Your doctor will give you medicine to manage the pain.
Average Hospital Stay
The typical hospital stay after a nephrectomy is 2-7 days. The exact length depends on the type of surgery. Your doctor may choose to keep you longer if complications occur.
At the Hospital
IV fluids and pain medicine will be given after surgery. Blood pressure, electrolytes, and fluid balance will all be carefully monitored. A urinary catheter is often needed for a short time following surgery.
You will be encouraged to move around and be cautiously active as symptoms allow.
Call Your Doctor TOP
After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.
National Cancer Institute
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
The Kidney Foundation of Canada
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6/3/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/ : Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, Kelly S, Wu P, Ebbert JO. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.e8.
Last reviewed November 2012 by Adrienne Carmack, MD
Last Updated: 11/26/2012