Thumbnail image of: Kidney: Illustration

Kidney Removal (Radical Nephrectomy)

What is a radical nephrectomy?

A radical nephrectomy is surgery to remove your kidney, and may also include removal of part of the tube that connects your kidney to your bladder, the lymph nodes close to the kidney, and your adrenal gland.

When is it used?

This procedure is done to remove cancer in your kidney or the tube that connects your kidney to your bladder, called the ureter.

How do I prepare for this procedure?

  • Plan for your care and find someone to give you a ride home after the procedure.
  • Your healthcare provider will tell you when to stop eating and drinking before the procedure. This helps to keep you from vomiting during the procedure.
  • Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions about not smoking before and after the procedure. Smokers may have more breathing problems during the procedure and heal more slowly. It is best to quit 6 to 8 weeks before surgery.
  • Some medicines (like aspirin or blood thinners such as Coumadin) may increase your risk of bleeding during or after the procedure. You may or may not need to take your regular medicines the day of the procedure, depending on what they are and when you need to take them. Tell your healthcare provider about all medicines and supplements that you take. Ask your healthcare provider if you need to avoid taking any medicine or supplements before the procedure.
  • Follow any other instructions your healthcare provider gives you.
  • Ask any questions you have before the procedure. You should understand what your healthcare provider is going to do. You have the right to make decisions about your healthcare and to give permission for tests or procedures.

What happens during this procedure?

The procedure will be done at the hospital.

You will be given general anesthesia to keep you from feeling pain during the procedure. General anesthesia relaxes your muscles and you will be asleep.

  • Laparoscopic surgery is done through several small cuts in the belly. A laparoscope is a lighted tube with a camera. Your provider can put the scope and tools into your belly through the small cuts.
  • Open surgery (with usually one bigger cut in the belly) may be needed to remove the kidney and any other tissue.

What happens after this procedure?

You may stay in the hospital for several days. You may have a drain through the skin in the area of the surgery. It is usually removed in 1 to 2 days, before you go home.

Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions. Ask your provider:

  • How long it will take to recover
  • What activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
  • How to take care of yourself at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup.

What are the risks of this procedure?

Your healthcare provider will explain the procedure and any risks. Some possible risks include:

  • Anesthesia has some risks. Discuss these risks with your healthcare provider.
  • You may have infection or bleeding.
  • Other body parts may be injured during the surgery.
  • If you had cancer, not all of it may have been removed, and the cancer may grow back.
  • If your other kidney is weak, you may need dialysis. Dialysis uses a machine to do the work of the kidneys.

There is risk with every treatment or procedure. Ask your healthcare provider how these risks apply to you.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2013-04-24
Last reviewed: 2014-03-17
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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