What is Radical Nephrectomy?

Radical nephrectomy is the surgical procedure that involves removal of the entire kidney. This is usually required in case the kidney is affected with renal (kidney) cancer or if the kidney is severely damaged, or diseased, and fails to function normally.

This procedure might also be performed prior to a kidney transplantation to remove the diseased kidney and replace it with a healthy donor kidney.

The procedure may be performed using conventional open-type surgical method requiring large incision, or it can be done in the more modern way using a minimally invasive laparoscopic method. This minimally invasive (laparoscopic) method requires less number of incisions as well as the smaller-sized (keyhole) incisions. The main aim of the radical nephrectomy surgery is to remove the entire kidney while leaving the connecting tissue intact in case a future chance of transplanting a donor kidney arises.

When is Radical Nephrectomy recommended?

A radical nephrectomy is recommended when the doctor is satisfied that a radical nephrectomy (complete removal) of the affected kidney is required in order to prevent other surrounding organs and tissues from getting affected by the metastasizing (spreading) cancer. This is determined with the help of several tests, such as:

  • Ultrasound – Sound waves create a clear image of the soft tissues inside, and around, the kidney.
  • Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan – This specialized x-ray test helps the doctor get a cross-sectional view of the soft tissues near the kidney.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) test – This test uses a created magnetic field and radio waves to 3D images of the soft tissues around the kidney.

Why is a Radical Nephrectomy needed?

A radical nephrectomy is mostly needed to remove a diseased kidney as well as to source a healthy kidney for transplant.

A radical (complete) nephrectomy is usually required in case the kidney is affected with renal (kidney) cancer and a tumor growing in the kidney is affecting its normal functioning. Adults are more likely to develop renal cell carcinomas, which grow in the small renal tubes inside the kidneys while children are seen developing a form of renal (kidney) cancer known as Wilms’ tumor that is mostly caused due to poor development of the cells in the kidney.

The doctor will decide on the need for a radical (total) nephrectomy depending on various factors, such as:

  • If the tumor is contained within the kidney
  • The number of tumors in the kidney
  • Amount of kidney affected by the cancer
  • If cancer has spread (metastasized) and affected surrounding tissue
  • The level of functioning left in the affected kidney

A radical nephrectomy is also required in case of kidney donation. The surgeon might perform a nephrectomy, either to remove a diseased kidney and ready the space for transplantation of a donor kidney, or it could be performed to source (harvest) a healthy donor kidney from a live donor.

What are the possible risks involved in a Radical Nephrectomy?

The long-term complications seen after a radical nephrectomy mostly include the problems that may arise due to an insufficiently functioning kidney. Although, the overall functioning capacity of the kidneys is reduced the person can live a healthy life on a single healthy kidney as well.

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