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A nephrectomy (say "nih-FREK-tuh-mee") is surgery to take out part or all of the kidney. There are three kinds of nephrectomy:
There are two ways to do the surgery:
You will be asleep during the surgery. The operation will take about 2 to 4 hours.
You will probably spend 3 to 5 days in the hospital.
Your belly will feel sore. This usually lasts about 1 to 2 weeks. Your doctor will give you pain medicine for this. You may also have other symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, constipation, gas, or a headache.
At first, you may have low energy and get tired quickly. It may take 3 to 6 months for your energy to fully return.
You will probably need to take 4 to 6 weeks off from work. It depends on the type of work you do and how you feel.
A nephrectomy may be done for several reasons, including to treat kidney cancer. Simple nephrectomy may be done to remove a kidney that is deformed or damaged and not working well. It's also done to harvest a healthy kidney for organ donation.
Surgery works well for kidney cancer, especially when the cancer is found early. After kidney cancer has spread, the outlook is not as good, even with surgery.
When one kidney is removed, the other one expands to remove waste and fluids from the body. Most people do fine with only one kidney.
The risks are the same as for any major surgery. They include:
Current as of: February 28, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board: All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.
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