Open Nephrectomy: Before Your Surgery

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What is a nephrectomy?

A nephrectomy is surgery to take out part or all of the kidney. One or both kidneys may be taken out. Sometimes other tissue near the kidney is taken out at the same time.

The doctor will take out your kidney through a long cut in the front or side of your belly. This cut is called an incision. The incision will leave a scar that will fade with time.

Your body can work fine with one healthy kidney. But if both kidneys are removed, or if the kidney you have left is not healthy, you will need other treatment after surgery. Your doctor will talk to you about this.

You will probably spend 3 to 5 days in the hospital. You will need to take it easy for 4 to 6 weeks at home.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

What happens before surgery?

Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.

Preparing for surgery

  • Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell your doctors ALL the medicines and natural health products you take. Some of these can increase the risk of bleeding or interact with anesthesia.
  • If you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if you should stop taking these medicines before your surgery. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Your doctor will tell you which medicines to take or stop before your surgery. You may need to stop taking certain medicines a week or more before surgery. So talk to your doctor as soon as you can.
  • If you have an advance care plan, let your doctor know. Bring a copy to the hospital. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets your doctor and loved ones know your health care wishes. Doctors advise that everyone prepare these papers before any type of surgery or procedure.
  • You may need to empty your bowels with a laxative or an enema. Your doctor will tell you if you need to do this.

What happens on the day of surgery?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your surgery may be cancelled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of surgery, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your surgery. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Do not shave the surgical site yourself.
  • Take off all jewellery and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital or surgery centre

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • The area for surgery is often marked to make sure there are no errors.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. You will be asleep during the surgery.
  • You may get an epidural catheter. This is a small tube that puts pain medicine into the area in your back around your spinal cord. It helps prevent pain after surgery.
  • The surgery will take about 2 to 3 hours.
  • You will have a tube that drains urine from your bladder. This is called a urinary catheter.
  • You may have a small tube coming out of your belly. This tube will drain fluids.
  • You may have a thin plastic tube in your nose that goes down the back of your throat into your stomach. It will drain stomach juices. It is usually removed in the days after surgery.

Going home

  • Be sure you have someone to drive you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine make it unsafe for you to drive.
  • You will be given more specific instructions about recovering from your surgery. They will cover things like diet, wound care, follow-up care, driving, and getting back to your normal routine.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your surgery.
  • You become ill before the surgery (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the surgery.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Current as of: April 3, 2017