Jefferson University Hospitals


If you are diagnosed with a tumor of the kidney or another condition that prevents the kidney from functioning properly, a nephrectomy may be required. Our highly skilled urologists will help you decide the best procedure for your condition.

Jefferson surgeons may recommend one of the following procedures:

  • Partial nephrectomy – a procedure to remove a small tumor from the kidney, without removing the entire kidney
  • Simple nephrectomy – the total removal of a kidney
  • Radical nephrectomy – the removal of the kidney with all the surrounding fat, fascia and possibly the adrenal gland

Having your kidney cancer treated at Jefferson means you have access to nationally recognized health care professionals who are setting the standard in cancer care. The Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson is a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated clinical cancer center for excellence in cancer care and research.

Types of Kidney Surgery

Partial Robotic Nephrectomy

Utilizing state-of-the-art robotic surgical procedures which allow for greater precision in disconnecting large blood vessels from the kidney, Jefferson surgeons can perform a partial robotic nephrectomy if you are diagnosed with kidney cancer.

During this procedure, your surgeon must clamp off the blood supply to your kidneys. There is only a short window of time to then remove the tumor and some surrounding healthy tissue before the lack of blood loss results in kidney damage. This is very difficult to accomplish with non-robotic minimally invasive procedures to the point that they are not typically used for this procedure.

The benefits of robotic surgery may also include less pain during recovery, less blood loss and more speedy recovery time. 

Laparoscopic Nephrectomy

Urologists at Jefferson were the first in the Philadelphia area to use laparoscopic nephrectomy to treat patients with inflamed, infected kidneys and kidney tumors. And, for more than a decade, our surgeons have been using this procedure to remove kidneys for live donors.

Laparoscopic nephrectomy allows your surgeon to operate through a much smaller incision than usual in the abdomen – about 7 centimeters as compared with a normal 25-centimer incision. With such a small incision, your hospital stay can be shortened from four to five days to a total of two days and you can expect to be back up to speed within two weeks.

Even with a small incision, Jefferson urologists are able to take the whole kidney out intact, which is important in cancer surgery. The laparoscopic procedure, though more demanding on the surgeon than the conventional surgery, makes the procedure easier without increasing the risk of complications for the patient. The laparoscopic procedure can be done as quickly, and in some cases, more quickly than the nephrectomy or the nephroureterectomy performed with the conventional approach.

Conventional Surgery

A standard incision (about 8 to 12 inches long) is made in the abdomen to remove the kidney. If possible, your surgeon will make the incision on the side of the affected kidney to minimize impact on the abdominal organs. Typically, a patient undergoing such a procedure through conventional surgery could expect to be out of work for six to eight weeks. Full recovery might take as much as three to four months.