What is Kidney surgery?
Kidney surgery may be recommended for various conditions that affect the kidneys including urinary obstruction, stones, tumors, cysts, injury, infection, and other kidney diseases. These conditions often lead to pain and difficulty with urination. Kidney surgery may include removal of all or part of the kidney (nephrectomy), replacement of a kidney (transplant) or removal of kidney stones.
Nephrectomy may be performed by:
- Simple nephrectomy: Making a large abdominal incision
- Laparoscopy: A minimally invasive approach where 3-4 small incisions are made and the surgery performed using a laparoscope (a narrow tube with a camera)
- Robotic surgery: Performed with the help of robotic arms controlled by your doctor for better precision and dexterity
Minimally invasive procedures reduce post-operative pain and improve recovery time.
Nephrectomy can be:
- Partial: Only a part of your kidney is removed, the rest left intact to function. Indicated when you have only one kidney and need to remove a tumor
- Radical: Removal of the whole kidney along with surrounding tissue such as adrenal glands, fatty tissue, and lymph nodes. Usually performed for kidney cancer
If a single kidney is removed, you can survive with your existing kidney. If both kidneys are removed, you are periodically placed on a dialysis machine, which takes over your kidney function of filtering blood of impurities and forming urine.
You may elect to undergo kidney transplantation, where you are matched with a suitable donor and the kidney surgically transplanted either during the nephrectomy procedure or at a later date.
Kidney stone removal
Kidney stones may be treated by:
- Lithotripsy: Stones are fragmented by electric shock or ultrasound waves and pass out through the urinary tract.
- Percutaneous stone removal: Large kidney stones may be removed by making an incision in your back.
- Ureteroscopy: Stones may also be removed non-invasively, by approaching the kidney through the urinary tract with the help of a ureteroscope, a narrow viewing tube with instruments to remove the stone.
Recovery after kidney surgery depends on the type of procedure, your age, and general health. You are usually placed on a low protein diet following kidney surgery and must refrain from strenuous activity for at least 6 weeks.