Kidney surgery

Also known as: nephrectomy, radical nephrectomy, Partial nephrectomy, nephron sparing surgery, Percutaneous nephrolithotomy, Percutaneous nephrolithotripsy

Kidney surgery is performed to treat a variety of conditions and is usually performed by a urologist.

Conditions treated by kidney surgery include:

Just as there are many conditions to be treated, there are also many different types of kidney surgery. Some of the more common surgeries include:

Nephrectomy and radical nephrectomy:
Nephrectomy is the surgical removal of a kidney. A radical nephrectomy is the removal of one entire kidney, surrounding lymph nodes, and the adrenal gland and is usually performed as a first step in treating kidney cancer. After removal of a kidney, patients can lead normal, healthful lives, as long as the remaining kidney is functioning well.

Partial nephrectomy or nephron-sparing surgery (NSS):
With partial nephrectomy or nephron sparing surgery (NSS) only the tumor and tissue immediately surrounding the tumor is removed. This type of kidney surgery is most often done as a first step in certain kidney cancers and when it is important to maintain kidney function.

Percutaneous nephrolithotomy/nephrolithotripsy (tunnel surgery):
Percutaneous nephrolithotomy and nephrolithotripsy are both used to remove kidney stones. In both procedures the surgeon accesses the kidney through a small incision in the back and threads a nephroscope (a miniature fiberoptic camera) and other small instruments through the hole. The surgeon can then remove an intact stone through the tube (nephrolithotomy) or will break up the stone first before removing it (nephrolithotripsy).

Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL or lithotripsy):
Lithotripsy is a non-invasive medical procedure that uses shock (sound) waves to break up stones in the kidney, bladder, or ureter (tube that carries urine from the kidneys to the bladder). It is normally done under general anesthesia or mild sedation and on an outpatient basis.

Open vs. minimally invasive surgery:
Open, or traditional, surgery usually involves an incision in the abdomen or side, although some procedures access the kidney through the lower back.

Minimally invasive procedures allow access to the kidney through smaller incisions and the use of a laparoscope and special tools to view and work on the kidney. Benefits of minimally invasive procedures include decreased blood loss, less pain and faster recovery. There might be increased risks as well and not all surgeries can be done as minimally invasive. Patients should always discuss their surgical options and associated risks with their surgeon before undergoing any type of surgery.

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