Kidneys are a pair of bean-shaped organs found in vertebrates of the body, playing an essential role in our system to remove wastes and fluids and maintain a healthy balance of water, salts, and minerals. When kidneys are damaged, these waste products and fluids start to accumulate in the system. An inflammation in different parts of the kidney leads to long-term functional decline or kidney failure. To deal with a diseased, damaged or cancerous kidney, a surgical procedure called nephrectomy is done to remove this body part. Whether it is a partial nephrectomy which removes a portion of kidney or getting rid of the entire kidney, the most common reason to have a nephrectomy is to remove a tumor that may be cancerous and could cause further deterioration to the damaged kidney or it can be done to save the kidney from aftereffects of a recent injury. This surgery can be a life-saving procedure for the patients who are suffering from kidney cancers. In some cases, a nephrectomy is done if there are repeated infections in the body and kidney is the primary cause. Besides ailment and injury being prime reasons for kidney removal, surgeons also conduct nephrectomies to remove a healthy kidney for a kidney donation as most people can function well with only one kidney in the body.

Also Read:  Kidney Cancer: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

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Types Of Nephrectomies And Procedure

Primarily, two types of nephrectomies are conducted by health practitioners. When only the diseased portion of the affected kidney is removed, the procedure is called partial nephrectomy. The second type of surgery performed on the kidney is radical nephrectomy, when surgeon removes the entire kidney and sometimes also the adrenal glands located above the kidneys. Surgeons use two different techniques for performing both nephrectomies. A laparoscopic nephrectomy uses a small tool with a camera called laparoscope, sometimes also making tiny incisions if required. Another advanced mode of laparoscopic operative procedure is a robotic-assisted laparoscopic surgery wherein a surgical robot is controlled by the surgeon to maneuver the process and tools. In the traditional surgical process or the open nephrectomy, the surgeon uses one large incision and performs the operation without any camera. Surgeons may conduct an open surgery if laparoscopic surgery is not feasible. For instance, some people do not respond well under anesthesia and laparoscopic procedures need the patient to be under anesthesia for extremely longer durations. Moreover, in some cases, such as in an event of large kidney tumor, minimally invasive techniques may not be the best choice. Therefore, doctors prefer an open surgery approach. The benefit of Laparoscopic nephrectomy however is that hospital stays, and the recovery times are relatively short.

Preparing For The Procedure

Before partial or radical kidney removal, the nephrologist or the practicing surgeon will give certain instructions. If certain medications are being used (such as blood thinners), they should be stopped. Fasting is required for all nephrectomies and even liquid intake a night before the procedure should be discontinued. The healthcare team monitors patient’s blood pressure, fluid levels and electrolytes before and after surgery. A few days before nephrectomy, blood sample is also taken to be prepared for blood transfusion if needed, and the blood type should be known by the team. Whether a laparoscopic or an open surgery, before any kidney removal procedure, general anesthesia is administered and a urinary catheter to drain urine for the first few days is used. After the surgery, recovery time depends upon on what type of nephrectomy has been done. In an open surgery, an incision is done near the diaphragm and the patient may feel uneasy to breathe. Thus, performing diaphragmatic breathing exercises is important for preventing pneumonia.

What Are The Risks Of Nephrectomy?

All surgeries carry a certain risk of infection. If the patient has a disease or the kidney is damaged, there is a small risk of kidney failure during the operation. Moreover, until about few weeks, it is imperative to seek immediate care if you experience any symptoms of kidney failure. Call your healthcare provider if there are following symptoms:

  • Frequent urination or changes in urine color
  • Edema or swelling in the legs, face or lower back
  • A sudden increase in high blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Brain fog

Recovery Time Post Nephrectomy

Recovery period can vary and entirely depends upon the kind of nephrectomy done on the patient. While minor activities can be resumed within a week or two, one should avoid heavy object lifting or strenuous activities for at least six to eight weeks. Activities that can cause injury to the kidney are a big no.  A healthy diet, little precaution and complete rest after nephrectomy promise a quick recovery.