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Kidney Surgery

Experience and options: for kidney removal or other kidney operations

Today, many forms of surgery are available for many types of kidney conditions.  The most important of the significant kidney operations remains nephrectomy, or complete removal of the kidney.  Either a general surgeon or a urologic surgeon provides this type of surgery.  After removal of a kidney, patients can lead normal, healthful lives, as long as the remaining kidney is functioning well in its duty of making urine and performing other renal functions.  (If both kidneys are removed or the remaining kidney does not function well, patients will have to undergo dialysis or receive a kidney transplant.)

Conditions for which nephrectomy serves as a treatment include:

  • chronic kidney diseases;
  • kidney infection;
  • renal hypertension;
  • traumatic kidney injury;
  • and kidney cancer.

Patients also undergo nephrectomy if they are donating a kidney for kidney transplantation.

The surgeon can remove the kidney either through a conventional, open surgical procedure or through a less invasive, laparoscopic procedure.   The former involves a large incision in the side of the abdomen, and the latter involves several smaller incisions in the abdomen and side.  Incisions may vary in locations from front, back, or side, depending on the patient's specific anatomy and condition, and the type of surgery used.  Patients receive general anesthesia for these operations.

Recovery from post-operative pain and during the healing process takes some time after nephrectomy.  Patients remain in the hospital for a number of days and will have to convalesce for weeks or sometimes months before returning to strenuous activity.  Recovery is much quicker after laparoscopic nephrectomy than after traditional nephrectomy.

In addition, Aria surgeons and other specialists may confer and collaborate with university urologists, surgeons, and other experts to refer patients for such tertiary-care services as kidney transplantation. 

For more on conditions of the kidneys and their treatment, see Aria's Division of Urology.