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Kidney removal - Overview

Alternative Names

Nephrectomy; Simple nephrectomy; Radical nephrectomy; Open nephrectomy; Laparoscopic nephrectomy; Partial nephrectomy

Definition of Kidney removal:

Kidney removal, or nephrectomy, is surgery to remove all or part of a kidney. It may involve:

  • Part of one kidney removed (partial nephrectomy)
  • All of one kidney removed (simple nephrectomy)
  • Removal of one entire kidney, surrounding lymph nodes, and the adrenal gland (radical nephrectomy)

Description:

This surgery is done in the hospital while you are asleep and pain-free (general anesthesia). The procedure can take 3 hours.

For simple nephrectomy or open kidney removal:

  • You will be lying on your side. Your surgeon will make an incision (cut) up to 12 inches long. This cut will be on your side, just below the ribs or right over the last ribs.
  • Muscle, fat, and tissue are cut and moved. Your surgeon may need to remove a rib to do the procedure.
  • The tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder (ureter) and blood vessels are cut away from the kidney. The kidney is then removed.
  • Sometimes, just a part of the kidney may be removed
  • The cut is then closed with stitches or staples.

For radical nephrectomy or open kidney removal:

  • Your surgeon will make a cut about 8 to 12 inches long. This cut will be on the front of your belly, just below your ribs. It may also be done through your side.
  • Muscle, fat, and tissue are cut and moved. The tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder (ureter) and blood vessels are cut away from the kidney. The kidney is then removed.
  • Your surgeon will also take out the adrenal gland and some lymph nodes.
  • The cut is then closed with stitches or staples.

For laparoscopic surgery:

  • Your surgeon will make 3 or 4 small cuts, usually no more than 1-inch each, in your belly and side. The surgeon will use tiny probes and a camera to do the surgery.
  • Towards the end of the procedure, your doctor will make one of the cuts larger (around 4 inches) to take out the kidney.
  • The surgeon will cut the ureter, place a bag around the kidney, and pull it through the larger cut.
  • This surgery takes longer than an open kidney removal. Most people recover faster and feel less pain afterwards.

Sometimes, your surgeon may make a cut in a different place than described above.

Some hospitals and medical centers are doing this surgery using robots. See also: Robotic surgery

Why the Procedure Is Performed:

Kidney removal may be recommended for:

  • Someone donating a kidney
  • Birth defects
  • Kidney cancer
  • A kidney damaged by infection, kidney stones, or other problems
  • To help control high blood pressure in someone who has problems with the blood supply to their kidney
  • Very bad injury (trauma) to the kidney that cannot be repaired
  • Reviewed last on: 9/3/2010
  • David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; Scott Miller, MD, Urologist in private practice in Atlanta, Georgia. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

References

Novick AC. Open surgery of the kidney. In: Wein AJ, ed. Campbell-Walsh Urology. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 50.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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