What is a nephrectomy?

Nephrectomy is a procedure to remove all or part of one kidney. This can be performed to remove a diseased or cancerous kidney, or a healthy kidney in the case of living donor kidney transplants.

Types of nephrectomy

There are two main types of nephrectomies:

  • Complete (or radical) nephrectomy. Your surgeon removes the entire kidney and additional structures, such as your ureter (the tube that connects the kidney to the bladder), adrenal gland or lymph nodes.
  • Partial nephrectomy. Your surgeon removes only the diseased kidney tissues and leaves the rest of your kidney in place.

If you suffer from kidney cancer and the size of your tumour is large (more than 7cm), centrally located, or both, your best option may be to have the whole kidney removed, depending on your discussion with your surgeon.

However, if you have compromised renal function (e.g. you have only one kidney), your surgeon might suggest to remove only the affected parts of the kidney.

If both kidneys are removed, that is known as bilateral nephrectomy.

Surgical techniques for nephrectomies

Nephrectomies can be done using either one of the following two methods.

  • Open nephrectomy, where the surgeon makes one large incision on your abdomen to access your kidney
  • Laparoscopic nephrectomy, where the surgeon makes a series of small incisions in your abdomen using a camera and small instruments

Due to its minimally invasive nature, laparoscopic nephrectomy is becoming a popular option.

Why do you need a nephrectomy?

You may need a nephrectomy to remove all or part of your kidney if it:

  • Has a tumour, which may be either cancerous or non-cancerous
  • Has an infection
  • No longer functions (kidney failure)

If you are donating a kidney to an end-stage kidney failure patient, your doctor will perform a nephrectomy to remove it.

Who should not undergo nephrectomy?

Your doctor will discuss their concerns with you if they feel a nephrectomy is unsafe for you.

What are the risks and complications of a nephrectomy?

Nephrectomy is generally a safe procedure. As with any surgery, it carries the potential risks of:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Injuring other internal organs

Post-nephrectomy, there is a chance you may experience the following due to reduced kidney function.

This page has been reviewed by our medical content reviewers.

Need help?

For appointment bookings, please Whatsapp
+65 8198 7777

For clinic or corporate matters, please call
+65 6227 7777