What is a nephrectomy? Nephrectomy (nephro = kidney, ectomy = removal) is the surgical removal of a kidney. The procedure is done to treat kidney cancer as well as other kidney diseases and injuries. Nephrectomy is also done to remove a healthy kidney from a donor (either living or deceased) for transplantation. Thousands of nephrectomies are performed every year in the U.S. Types of nephrectomy There are two types of nephrectomy for a diseased kidney: partial and radical. In partial nephrectomy, only the diseased or injured portion of the kidney is removed. Radical nephrectomy involves removing the entire kidney, along with a section of the tube leading to the bladder (ureter), the gland that sits atop the kidney (adrenal gland), and the fatty tissue surrounding the kidney. When both kidneys are removed at the same time, the procedure is called bilateral nephrectomy. The procedure used to remove a healthy kidney from a donor for the purpose of transplantation is called donor nephrectomy. How is nephrectomy surgery done? Laparoscopic Surgery Some people who require a nephrectomy are suitable for laparoscopic surgery (also called minimally invasive surgery) to remove the kidney. Laparoscopic surgery involves the use of a laparoscope (wand-like camera) that is passed through a series of small incisions or ports in the abdominal wall. It is used to view the abdominal cavity and remove the kidney through a small incision. The procedure is done under general anesthesia (you are asleep and do not feel any pain). You will require a bladder catheter that is placed once you are asleep and is removed several hours after surgery. Laparoscopy achieves the same things as traditional surgical techniques and can be used for both radical and partial surgery. It is also the preferred method for kidney transplant donor nephrectomy. The advantages of laparoscopic surgery include: Shorter recovery time Shorter hospital stay Smaller incisions Fewer post-operative complications Laparoscopic nephrectomy takes special skills to perform and is not available at all hospitals. Also, whether you can have laparoscopic surgery depends on your medical condition and overall health. Speak to your doctor about your options for laparoscopic nephrectomy. Open Nephrectomy Open nephrectomy is rarely required but is also done under general anesthesia. The surgeon makes a cut (incision) in the abdomen or in the side of the abdomen (flank area). A rib may need to be removed to perform the procedure. The ureter (the tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder) and the blood vessels are cut away from the kidney and the kidney is removed. The incision is then closed with stitches.