A nephrectomy is a medical term referring to a surgical procedure for the removal of a kidney or part of a kidney. It is sometimes also referred to as nephrectomy surgery.
One of the important jobs done by the kidneys is collecting and removing toxins and wastes from the bloodstream. This filtering process is how urine is produced. But when normal kidney functions are compromised through disease or damage, kidney removal surgery or a nephrectomy may be become necessary.
A nephrectomy is done because of one of several possible kidney problems. Is most often used because of kidney failure, kidney cancer or some other abnormal tissue growth.
A complete or radical nephrectomy means the entire kidney is removed. When only the diseased or damaged part of the kidney is taken out, it’s called a partial nephrectomy.
When someone donates a healthy kidney to someone else it’s called a donor nephrectomy.
Kidney removal surgery can currently be done one of two ways.
1. Laparoscopic Nephrectomy – The surgeon makes several small incisions. A tube with a camera attached to it is placed in one of them. Instruments for performing the surgery are placed in the others. The surgeon uses the camera to guide his or her movements in using the instruments to remove all or part of the kidney.
2. Open Nephrectomy – This procedure means the surgeon removes the kidney through a large open incision in the patient’s side. This is the “traditional” way of removing a kidney, and it requires a longer recovery period than a laparoscopic nephrectomy.
Kidney removal surgery using the open nephrectomy procedure is much more invasive and requires a longer period of recovery.
The reason for the surgery and amount of kidney tissue that needs to be removed will determine which type of nephrectomy procedure should be used.
The question you’re probably asking right now is, “What determines how much of the kidney needs to be removed?”
The first consideration is the amount of disease or damage the kidney has sustained. The doctor will have to find out if the problem affects only one area or only one kidney. He or she will want to know if affects nearby tissue or the other kidney.
To help determine the condition and severity of the kidney damage, a variety of tests will be given that include the following:
Ultrasound – This takes an image of the soft tissues surrounding the kidney using sound waves.
Computerized Tomography – Another name for this is CT or CT scanning. It employs special X-ray technology which creates thin, cross-sectional “slices” of kidney tissue.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging – An “MRI” uses a magnetic field and radio waves to produce a 3D computer image of the kidney.
After looking at all the data from these tests, your doctor will recommend the nephrectomy surgery that is appropriate for your case.
When it comes time for your nephrectomy procedure, you’ll be given anesthesia. Your surgical team will also insert a catheter to drain your bladder.
Recovery time from nephrectomy surgery depends on a number of factors, especially your overall health and the type of procedure that was done.
When you’ve had a nephrectomy, you may have certain post-surgical complications. These could include chronic kidney disease and high blood pressure (hypertension).
But most of the time, patients recover fully and lead normal, healthy lives once again.