Kidney Surgery

What is kidney surgery?

woman holding a kidney model against her lower back

There are different types of surgeries that can be done on the kidneys. These include:

  • Simple nephrectomy, which means removal of the entire kidney.
  • Partial nephrectomy, which involves removing only part of your kidney due to tumours or kidney disease.
  • Kidney stone surgery, which is rare and only done when the kidney stones are too large to break down or pass naturally.
  • Kidneys are sometimes removed when they no longer work properly, or become damaged for some reason.

One of the common surgical approaches used in kidney surgery is laparoscopic surgery. This involves small incisions in your abdomen, allowing a camera and other instruments to be inserted by your general surgeon to perform the procedure.

Recovery times are much quicker with this type of surgery, and it is less painful.

When should I see a specialist for kidney surgery?

One of the main reasons you may need surgery is due to cancerous tumours on the kidney. Your general surgeon will discuss the extent of surgery you require, and whether your entire kidney is removed or just part of it.

You may have cysts present on your kidneys. Surgery is often the best treatment to remove these.

Kidney transplant is also another reason for kidney surgery to take place. If you have chronic kidney disease, you may be a candidate for kidney transplant.

Enquire with a specialist today.

Did you know?

Higher levels of physical activity are associated with a decreased risk of end-stage kidney disease.¹

What are the risks of kidney surgery?

Like with any surgery, there can be risks involved. Although complications are generally rare, they can include:

● Bleeding
● Infection at the surgical incision site
● Stroke
● Allergic reaction to anesthesia or other medications
● Formation of blood clots that can move into your lungs – this is called a pulmonary embolism
● Breathing difficulties

Other risks specific to a nephrectomy can include:
● Injury to other organs or tissues around your kidney
● A hernia where organs might bulge out of your surgical incision

If you have had one of your kidneys removed, you may experience problems with the remaining kidney. This is partly because people who need kidney surgery are often at risk of kidney disease. These problems are usually less common in kidney donors.

How do I prepare for kidney surgery?

Your surgical team will usually instruct you on how to prepare for your surgery. You might be asked to stop taking certain medication for a period of time prior to your surgery.

You will also be asked to stop eating and drinking for a certain period of time before the day of your surgery.

You will likely have some blood taken a few days before your surgery. This will be tested to ensure that you are in good enough health to undergo surgery, and will also determine your blood type in case you need a blood transfusion during surgery.

What can I expect during kidney surgery?

father mother and two children outdoors

You will be seen by an anesthesiologist prior to your surgery. They will explain the procedure and allow you to ask any questions.

In the operating theatre, your anaesthesiologist will administer the anesthetic. Once you are asleep, the general surgeon will then perform the planned procedure.

You will be connected to an echocardiogram (ECG) machine as well as a blood pressure machine to monitor your heart and circulation. Once you are asleep, you will also need a tube inserted into your airway to assist your breathing through your operation.

Because of the nature of anaesthetic medication, you will not have any memory of the procedure.

What happens after my kidney surgery?

Following your surgery, you will be taken to a recovery room, where you will be given time to wake up from your anaesthetic. Once you are well enough, you will then be moved to a general ward.

When you wake up, you may experience some pain. This will likely be managed with medication. You might also have a catheter inserted into your urethra to help drain urine, and allow the nurses to monitor your urine output.

Drains are likely to be present as well. These are small tubes placed around the wound site to drain any remaining fluid that can collect after your operation. A small bag will be attached to the end of it which the nurses will empty regularly. Once there is minimal fluid collecting in the bag, the drains will be removed.

Recovery time after the procedure will depend on your overall health and the type of kidney surgery performed. Your urinary catheter remains in place for a short time during your recovery. You may be given instructions on restrictions to your diet and activities.

Request an appointment with a general surgeon today.

[1] Jafar T, Jin A, Koh W, Yuan J, Chow K. Physical activity and risk of end-stage kidney disease in the Singapore Chinese Health Study. Nephrology. 2015;20(2):61-67. doi:10.1111/nep.12355.