Kidney function is critical to life because the organ filters wastes and fluid from the bloodstream. A nephrectomy is the surgical removal of a kidney or a section of a kidney. It is most commonly performed on patients with cancer or those whose kidney has been severely damaged by infection, kidney stones or cysts. Nephrectomy is also used to remove a healthy kidney that will be transplanted to another person.
Patients have three approaches to a nephrectomy -- traditional open surgery, laparoscopic surgery, and the innovative da Vinci Surgical System. The benefits of da Vinci’s minimally invasive approach include:
Significantly less pain
Potentially less blood loss
Fewer complications - including reduced risk of infection
Less scarring – 1-2 cm incisions versus 8-12 inches with open surgery
Shorter hospital stay - one day versus an average of three days
Quicker recovery from surgery and return to normal routine
Increased potential for kidney preservation in certain prescribed cancer operations
The state-of-the-art da Vinci robot allows some complex surgeries to be performed as minimally invasive procedures. Through tiny 1-2 cm incisions, a surgeon using the da Vinci system can operate with precision and control while minimizing the pain that often accompanies the large incisions associated with open surgery. The surgeon uses special hand controls to guide the robotic arms which hold specially designed surgical instruments. The latest computer technology converts the surgeon’s large hand movements into precise small movements, resulting in tremendous dexterity. The robotic “wrists” can rotate a full 360 degrees, enabling your surgeon to control the miniature surgical instruments with unprecedented accuracy, flexibility and range of motion. The da Vinci System requires that every surgical maneuver be performed with direct input from your surgeon – the machine cannot move on its own.
The three-dimensional, high definition da Vinci camera supplies your surgeon with a magnified view of the internal organs that’s better than normal vision. The enhanced visualization and greater degree of movement offered by the da Vinci System provide a minimally invasive alternative that can be used for many nephrectomies.
For more information on the da Vinci System’s leading-edge robotic technology, click here.
Contact an urologist to find out if da Vinci assisted surgery may be your best treatment option.
Questions and Answers
What is traditional "open" nephrectomy surgery?
Kidney surgery has traditionally been performed using an open approach. The surgeon removes the kidney through an 8-12 inch incision. This incision is usually made in the side of the body to allow the surgeon access to the kidney while only minimally disturbing other abdominal organs. However, depending on the reason for the nephrectomy and the health of the patient, the incision may be made in the front of the abdomen or in the back. Common drawbacks of open surgery include significant post-surgical pain, potentially substantial blood loss and a lengthy recovery.
What is laparoscopic nephrectomy surgery?
Conventional laparoscopy is less invasive, but the design of the surgical instruments limits the doctor’s dexterity, visualization and control when compared to open surgery. In the laparoscopic approach, special, rigid surgical instruments and a video camera are inserted into a patient’s body through four small incisions made in the wall of the abdomen. The camera transmits a two-dimensional image of the internal organs onto a television monitor that the surgeon views while performing surgery. If the kidney is being removed for cancer, one incision must be enlarged to between 6 and 9 centimeters so that the kidney can be removed in one piece. Usually, this larger incision is next to the navel or, in women, along the bikini line in the lower abdomen.
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