Robotic Kidney Surgery

Surgery is the main treatment for most kidney cancers and often it can cure the cancer entirely.

Depending on the type of kidney cancer, the grade and stage of the cancer, and your general health, you might have one of the following operations: Partial Nephrectomy (removal of part of the kidney) or a Radical Nephrectomy (removal of the whole kidney).

How is the surgery performed

If you have surgery for kidney cancer, it will be carried out in hospital under a general anaesthetic. Your surgeon will talk to you about the risks of the procedure. One of the following methods will be used to remove part or all of the kidney (partial or radical nephrectomy). Each method is suitable in particular situations.

Open surgery

  • This is usually done with a long cut (incision) at the side of your abdomen where the affected kidney is located.
  • In some cases, the incision is made in the front of the abdomen or in another area of the body where the cancer has spread.
  • If you are having a radical nephrectomy, the surgeon will clamp off and divide the major blood vessels and tubes to the affected kidney before removing it.

Keyhole surgery

  • This is also called minimally invasive surgery or laparoscopic surgery.
  • The surgeon will make several small cuts in the skin and insert a tiny instrument with a light and camera (laparoscope) into one of the openings. The laparoscope sends images of your body to a video monitor. The surgeon watches the images on the monitor for guidance during the operation.

Robotic-assisted surgery

  • This is a type of keyhole surgery using a robotic device.
  • The surgeon sits at a control panel to see a three-dimensional image and moves robotic arms that hold the instruments.
  • Robotic surgery has allowed more partial nephrectomies to be performed with keyhole surgery, reducing complications and improving recovery time.

Making decisions about surgery

Talk to your surgeon about the types of surgery suitable for you, and ask about the advantages and disadvantages of each method. If your surgeon suggests robot-assisted surgery, check what you have to pay. Unless you are treated as a public patient in a hospital or treatment centre that offers this at no extra cost, it can be a more expensive operation.

Compared to open surgery, both keyhole (laparoscopic) surgery and robot-assisted surgery usually mean a shorter hospital stay, less pain and a faster recovery time. But in some cases, open surgery may be a better option.

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