Commonly Asked Questions Regarding Your Kidney Surgery
How long does the operation take?
Surgery itself usually lasts three to five hours. However, it generally takes five to six hours from the time you leave the pre-op area until you arrive in the recovery room. You will be unable to see your family for an additional two hours, the period most people are in the recovery room.
How long will I be in the recovery room after surgery is done?
Generally, you will be in the recovery room for two hours. This may be longer depending on how readily available are the rooms on the ward.
What kind of room will I go to after the recovery room?
Most of our patients recover on the ward, which has nurses specialized in the care of patients with kidney cancer. Often, patients’ families are able to stay with them in their rooms.
Will I need to be in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU)?
Rarely do patients need to go to the ICU after routine kidney surgery. If the patient has underlying medical problems, or if the operation is complicated, the patient may need to be in the recovery room for several days after surgery. This enables us to closely monitor your vital signs and overall condition.
What are the potential complications of this surgery?
All surgical procedures have inherent risks. Obviously, we would not perform your operation if we felt that the risks of surgery out-weighed the benefits. During your initial meeting and consultation, we will discuss the potential complications of bleeding, infection, injury to surrounding tissues (i.e. intestines, liver, spleen, pleura), the need for further procedures, blood clots, and the risks of anesthesia (heart attack, stroke, blood clots, and death). Kidney failure is always a possible outcome, although rare.
In addition, there is the chance that we will have to remove your entire kidney. The kidney may cease to function normally several weeks (or sooner) after surgery. There is also the possibility that you will need to go home with a small drain, to remove any urine that may leak from where the tumor is removed.
What can I do before surgery to be optimally prepared?
It is important to refrain from aspirin or aspirin-like compounds (i.e. Motrin™, Advil™, ibuprofen) for at least one week before surgery. The day before your operation, you may be instructed to begin a liquid diet and take a bottle of Fleets™ phosphosoda, depending upon the anticipated extent of the operation.
What medications will I need when I go home?
At time of discharge, you will be given prescriptions for pain medications and stool softeners, if necessary.
What limitations will I have after I go home?
During your first week at home you should take it real easy. Presence of pain should be the guide to limiting your activities. After one week, you should gradually be able to increase the level of your activity until returning to work six weeks after open kidney surgery. During this period you should refrain from vigorous exercise and lift no more than ten pounds at a time.
Deciding When to Schedule Your Nephrectomy
Many patients have pre-existing obligations and commitments when their kidney cancer is diagnosed. The following information is being supplied to help you decide when is the most optimal time for your operation.
You should plan on being in the hospital for two to three days for laparoscopic surgery and four to five days (including the day of surgery) for open surgery.
Time off work
Most people recover quite rapidly from their surgery. Some begin working after only a few days or weeks. Nonetheless, because recovery can be variable, you should forewarn your employer that you will be absent from your job for six weeks after open kidney surgery, and for at least three weeks after laparoscopic surgery. During this period you should refrain from vigorous exercise and lift no more than ten pounds at a time.
Preparations for surgery
One to two weeks before your operation you will need to meet with the anesthesiologists at The University of Chicago. At that same time, you will be given the opportunity to donate blood to be used, if necessary, at the time of surgery. The day before surgery you may be placed on a clear liquid diet and given a laxative, in order to clean out the intestines.
Time between diagnosis of kidney cancer and surgery
The growth rate of kidney cancer varies from person to person. Many patients can delay surgery safely for several weeks after the diagnosis with no adverse effects. Obviously, initiating treatment at the soonest possible date is preferable, although this is not always possible. Hence, while there is some flexibility in scheduling your operation, each individual case needs to be reviewed with a surgeon to determine the optimal timing of surgery.
Limitations after surgery
Most people recover quite rapidly from their surgery. Some begin working after only a few days or weeks. Nonetheless, because recovery can be variable, you should forewarn your employer that you will be absent from your job for six weeks after open kidney surgery, and for two to three weeks after laparoscopic surgery. During this period you should refrain from vigorous exercise and lift no more than ten pounds at a time.
Because of the risk of deep vein thrombosis (blood clots), it is prudent to wait at least three weeks after surgery before flying in an airplane. Otherwise, the major limitations to travel involve your comfort with traveling.