Nephrectomy

Nephrectomy / Robotic Nephrectomy

Overview of Nephrectomy

Nephrectomy is a surgery that is used to remove part or all of the kidneys. A radical nephrectomy is also known as a complete nephrectomy. This is when the physician removes the entire kidney and often some surrounding structures. If the entire kidney does not have to be removed, a partial nephrectomy can be done. A partial nephrectomy is when the physician removes only the diseased part of the kidney.

A nephrectomy is typically done to treat kidney cancer or to remove benign tumors. A donor nephrectomy can be done by removing a healthy kidney and transplanting it into someone who needs a functioning kidney.

The physician can perform this surgery through a small incision in the abdomen or the side. This is also called an open nephrectomy. A laparoscopic nephrectomy is done through a series of small incisions in the abdomen using a camera.

About the Kidneys

Most people have two kidneys. They are located in the upper back abdomen that are about the size of your fists. They serve a variety of purposes. They produce urine and filter wastes and excess fluid. They also help to produce hormones that regular blood pressure and maintain mineral levels in the blood.

Why Is a Nephrectomy Done?

The most common goal of a nephrectomy is to remove a tumor from the kidneys. These tumors are typically cancerous, but can also be benign. It can also be done for a variety of other reasons.

A nephrectomy is most commonly done to remove a cancerous tumor or a growth in the kidneys. The most common kidney cancer that is found in adults is renal cell carcinoma. This type of cancer typically will begin in the cells that line the tubes of the kidneys. Tumors in the kidney are rare in children, but they are possible. This is called Wilm’s tumors, which is caused by the lack of development of kidney cells. There are a few things that your physician will look at when removing the kidney, or portions of the kidney. It will depend on if the tumor is only in the kidney, if there are multiple tumors, how much of the kidney is affected, if nearby organs or tissues are affected and also how well the kidneys are functioning.

When looking to make this decision, your physician may request better looks at your kidneys. A CT may be ordered to look at the cross-sectional views to the soft tissues. An MRI will also see a 3D image of the kidneys. An ultrasound may also be ordered.

A nephrectomy can also be used to remove damaged. Nonfunctioning, or scarred kidney tissues.

Risks of a Nephrectomy

A nephrectomy is a very safe procedure, but there are some complications that may occur. You may experience bleeding, infection, or minor injury to nearby organs.

Long-term complications are the potential to live with less kidney function. After a nephrectomy, the other kidney usually works well enough to cover for the other. You may experience high blood pressure or chronic kidney disease.

The risk factor usually depends on the type of the surgery you are going through, the reason for the surgery, and your overall health.

Preparing for a Nephrectomy

Before your surgery, you will want to ask your physician any questions that you may have and also what your options are. You may need to stay in the hospital anywhere from one to seven days, depending how your surgery. Your physician will be able to give you a better estimate of how long you will be staying. Before your surgery, your physician will give you many instructions. Be sure to make note of these before you go home.

During the surgery, you will be put under anesthesia and will not be awake or feel pain during surgery. You will have a urinary catheter, which will drain the urine from the bladder.

There are a few different types of surgery that you can have. A laparoscopic surgery is the most minimally invasive procedure that is available. During this surgery, your physician will make a few incisions in the abdomen and insert a wand that has a video camera and small tools. The incision will be slightly larger if the entire kidney needs to be removed.

There is a robot-assisted laparoscopic surgery as well. During this surgery, the physician will use a robot to perform the procedure. The incisions during this procedure are very small. The robot provides 3D images during the procedure and is also able to make smaller and more complex motions.

Open surgery is when your physician makes an incision along the side of the abdomen. This surgery allows the physician to do things that may not have been possible during laparoscopic surgery.

A radical nephrectomy is when the surgeon removes the entire kidney, the tissue around the kidney, and part of the ureter. The surgeon may also remove the adrenal gland and lymph nodes.

A partial nephrectomy is when just a part of the kidney is removed.

Talk with your physician about which type of surgery is best for you. You can look at the advantages or disadvantages or each type.

After the procedure, you will stay in the hospital for anywhere from one to seven days. The amount of time that you are in the hospital will depend on the type of surgery and also your overall health. You will have a catheter for your entire stay in the hospital. You will receive instructions before you leave the hospital. You should expect your diet and activities to be severely restricted. Once you have recovered, you can resume your routines and activities.

Monitoring Kidney Function

In most cases, people are fine with one kidney, however, your physician will want to keep regular checkups to monitor your kidney function. Your physician will look at your blood pressure. If your kidney function fails, then your blood pressure will be increased. High blood pressure will damage the kidneys.

High protein levels, also called proteinuria, will also indicate kidney damage or poor kidney function.

Waste filtration will decrease with decreased kidney function. Glomerular filtration rate is how waste filtration is measured.

Taking Care of Your Kidney

After a nephrectomy, you may experience normal kidney function. It is important that you eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and attend all of the recommended check-ups.

Request An Appointment

To request an appointment with Urology, call 251-343-9090. To request an appointment with Radiation Oncology, call 251-414-5665.

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