What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

Nephrectomy Overview

Written by FoundHealth.


In a radical nephrectomy, the whole kidney is removed. In a partial nephrectomy, only a piece of the kidney is removed.

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

Your blood type is checked. This is done in case a transfusion is needed either before or after surgery.

Talk to your doctor about your medicines. You may be asked to stop taking some medicines up to one week before the procedure, like:

Do not eat or drink after midnight before the procedure. You may need to take medicine to cleanse your bowels.


General anesthesia will be given. You will be asleep.

Description of Procedure

A catheter will be inserted. An incision will be made in the abdomen or side of the abdomen. A rib may need to be removed to access the kidney. The ureter (tube from the kidney to the bladder) and blood vessels will be cut if the whole kidney is being removed. The kidney (or part of the kidney) will then be removed. The incision will be closed.

Kidneys, Ureters, and Renal Blood Vessels
Kidneys, Ureters, and Bladder
© 2009 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Laparoscopic surgery may also be used for a nephrectomy. The abdominal cavity will be inflated with gas. Several key-hole incisions are made in the area. A laparoscope, a long tool with a camera on the end, will be inserted through one of the holes. This allows the doctor to see inside you. Tools will be inserted through the other holes to perform the surgery. The same steps will be used to detach the kidney. A small incision will be made to retrieve the kidney.

How Long Will It Take?

Between 2-4 hours

How Much Will It Hurt?

Anesthesia will prevent pain during the surgery. Recovery is usually painful because of the location of the incision. The laparoscopic approach is significantly less painful. Your doctor will give you medicine to manage the pain.

Average Hospital Stay

Typical hospital stay following nephrectomy is 2-7 days. The exact length depends on the type of surgery. Your doctor may choose to keep you longer if complications arise.

Post-procedure Care

At the Hospital

IV fluids and pain medicine will be given following the surgery. Blood pressure, electrolytes, and fluid balance will all be carefully monitored. A urinary catheter is often needed for a short time following surgery.

You will be encouraged to move around and be cautiously active as symptoms allow.

At Home

Avoid strenuous exercise or activities for approximately six weeks. Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions .

If both kidneys are removed, hemodialysis or kidney transplantation is necessary.



National Cancer Institute

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases


Canadian Health Network

Health Canada


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