Kidney Surgery Types

Kidney Removal Surgery, Kidney Transplantation 

Kidney removal surgery is done in several different ways for a number of different reasons.

Generally speaking, there's a type of kidney surgery, known as a nephrectomy, that involves removal of all or part of a kidney.

There's also kidney transplantation surgery, in which a healthy kidney is removed from one person and transplanted into someone who needs a kidney. There's an entire section on this website dedicated to this topic. Click on kidney transplantation.

Or you might be referring to surgery to remove a kidney stone. Kidney stone removal surgery and transplant surgery are subjects for a whole different article, so we'll focus on kidney removal surgery here.

Kidney Removal Surgery

kidney surgeryCurrently, there are three basic types of kidney removal surgery. The one that's best for you depends on your diagnosis and the recommendation of your medical team.

First, there's a kidney removal surgery procedure called a simple nephrectomy. For a long time, this was done by making a long open incision (10-12 inches), taking out the whole kidney, and closing up the incision. Obviously, open surgery of this type is a major trauma for the body. So a few years ago, a procedure called laparoscopic kidney surgery was developed.

Laparoscopy is much less invasive because it's done with a pencil-thin, flexible surgical device. This tube-like device has a tiny camera attached to the end. The surgeon needs only 3-4 small incisions (about one inch) and performs the operation by watching what he or she is doing on a TV screen. Since the trauma to the body is reduced, recovery time is reduced. There's also less pain during recovery.

Another type of kidney removal surgery is a radical nephrectomy. This type of surgery involves removing not only the kidney, but some of the tissues and organs around it. It's more complicated because the surgeon also takes out the adrenal gland above the kidney, some surrounding fatty tissue, and the lymph nodes next to the kidney.

A radical nephrectomy is usually recommended for kidneys that have malignancies.

A partial nephrectomy is the third possibility. As the name suggests, this procedure involves removing only part of a kidney. A person who has previously had kidney removal surgery, and only has one left, would be a candidate for this kind of surgery. It might also be done to remove a tumor from a kidney.


Recovery from kidney surgery depends, of course, on the type of procedure that was done. Other factors include the general health of the patient, and his or her age.

After kidney surgery, your doctor will probably recommend a low protein diet. The body needs protein to function, but too much protein can be stressful for both the kidneys and liver.

As for returning to a normal life after kidney surgery...a lot again depends on the type of surgery you had. Usually a hospital stay of 2-3 days is normal for laparoscopic surgery, and 5-7 days for open surgery.

You can resume light activities as soon as you feel ready, but most doctors will tell you to refrain form anything strenuous for about 6 weeks.

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