Nephrectomy is a major surgical procedure to remove entire or a portion of the kidney.
The kidneys are two bean-shaped small organs in the abdomen. They help filter water and waste products from the blood. They also produce certain hormones. Read about kidneys.
Most often a nephrectomy procedure is done to treat kidney cancer or to remove a non-cancerous (benign) tumor of kidney.
In some other cases, a nephrectomy is performed to treat a diseased or damaged kidney. Some of the other reasons for kidney removal are:
A urologic surgeon performs nephrectomy to remove a cancerous tumor or abnormal growth tissues in a kidney. The most common kidney cancer in adults is renal cell carcinoma.
Kidney cancers are not common in children. Children are more likely to develop a type of kidney cancer called Wilms' tumor. This may be caused due to poor development of kidney cells in children.
Your doctor will make a decision about how much kidney (entire or a portion of it) tissue should be removed to treat the cancer. It depends on several factors such as listed here:
There are many different types of nephrectomy surgery.
In a simple nephrectomy, your entire kidney is removed. A cut is made of about 10 inches long in your side. The surgeon will cut away your kidney’s blood vessels and its connections to the bladder. The entire kidney is then removed from the body. Sometimes, a rib may have to be removed to reach to the kidney.
In a partial nephrectomy procedure (also called kidney-sparing or nephron-sparing surgery), your surgeon will remove the diseased tissue from the kidney and leave healthy tissue as such.
The procedure is almost similar to a simple nephrectomy. However, this may require a smaller incision.
This procedure can be employed to perform either a simple nephrectomy or a partial nephrectomy. In a laparoscopic technique, the surgeon will make several smaller incisions in the abdomen instead of one big incision.
The surgeon will insert small instruments through these incisions along with a camera fitted on an instrument. This will allow the surgeon to see what’s happening inside the abdomen while removing the kidney.
This type of surgery is generally less painful than an open surgery. The recovery time is shorter and you are allowed to go back home earlier.
Removing all or a part of a kidney is a serious procedure, and it is considered when no other option exists as a last resort. Complications may occur, though they are rare. Some of the risks associated with nephrectomy are:
There are some problems that may occur with long-term reduced kidney function. These may include such as:
The surgery is done in the hospital. You are fully asleep as the surgery is done. The procedure is pain-free (under general anesthesia).
Kidney removal procedure can take 3 or more hours.
If you are operated through a laparoscopic technique, it will take longer than an open kidney removal surgery. However, most people report fast recovery and feel less pain after this method of surgery when compared to the pain and recovery after going through a conventional open surgery.
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