Is Kidney Removal Safe?
Who is a candidate for the procedure?
A kidney may be removed if a person:
- has cancer or suspected cancer of the kidney
- has severe kidney trauma, or damage from an injury
- has a kidney that has poor function due to infection
- is donating his or her kidney to another person who needs a kidney transplant
How is the procedure performed?
There are three basic types of kidney removal, including:
- simple nephrectomy, which involves removal of just the diseased kidney
- radical nephrectomy, which involves removal of the kidney, the adrenal gland above the kidney, the surrounding fatty tissue, and the lymph nodes next to the kidney. Lymph nodes, sometimes called glands, are part of the immune system. This procedure is usually done when cancer of the kidney is present.
- partial nephrectomy, which involves removing only part of one kidney. This is not usually attempted unless a person has only one kidney.
A kidney removal is usually done using general anesthesia. This means that a person is put to sleep with medication and can feel no pain. The traditional type of surgery is called laparotomy. This involves making a fairly large cut into the front or side of the stomach. The ureter, which is the tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder, and blood vessels are cut away from the kidney. The kidney is then removed.
A kidney can also be removed using a more modern type of surgery called laparoscopy. This involves making three or more small cuts at key points on the body surface around the kidney. A pencil-sized tube with a light and camera attached to the end of it is then inserted through one cut and into the stomach. Using the camera on the end of the tube, the inside of the stomach can be seen. The surgeon uses other thin tools that are inserted through the other small cuts to free the kidney. The kidney is then removed through a slightly larger cut in the stomach.