Skip to main content


Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.

What do I need to know about a nephrectomy?

A nephrectomy is surgery to remove part or all of your kidney.

Kidney, Ureters, Bladder

How do I prepare for surgery?

  • Your surgeon will tell you how to prepare. Arrange to have someone drive you home after surgery.
  • You may need to drink clear liquids, such as apple juice or broth, the day before surgery. You may also need to drink a liquid that clears out your bowels. Your surgeon may tell you not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of surgery.
  • Tell your surgeon about all medicines you currently take. He or she will tell you if you need to stop any medicine for surgery, and when to stop. He or she will tell you which medicines to take or not take on the day of surgery.
  • You may need blood or urine tests before surgery. You may also need x-rays, a CT scan, or an MRI of your kidneys.
  • An IV will be placed in a vein. You may be given medicine or liquids through the IV.
  • Antibiotics may be given through your IV to prevent an infection caused by bacteria. Tell your surgeon if you had an allergic reaction to antibiotics. Tell him or her about any other allergies you have, including allergic reactions to anesthesia or other medicines.
  • General anesthesia will keep you asleep and free from pain during surgery. Anesthesia may be given through your IV. You may instead breathe it in through a mask or a tube placed down your throat. The tube may cause you to have a sore throat when you wake up.

What will happen during surgery?

You may have a radical (total) or partial nephrectomy.

  • For a radical nephrectomy, your surgeon will remove the whole kidney. He or she may also remove the ureter (tube that connects the kidney and the bladder), the adrenal gland, or lymph nodes. The adrenal gland sits on top of your kidney and produces hormones.
  • For a partial nephrectomy, your surgeon will remove only the diseased parts of the kidney.
  • The incision will be closed with stitches and covered with a bandage. Drains may be placed to remove extra fluid from your wound. This helps prevent infection. The drain is taken out when the wound stops draining fluid.

What should I expect after surgery?

You will be taken to a room to rest until you are fully awake. Healthcare providers will monitor you closely for any problems. Do not get out of bed until your healthcare provider says it is okay. When your healthcare provider sees that you are okay, you will be able to go home or be taken to your hospital room.

  • You will be helped to walk around after surgery. Movement will help prevent blood clots. You may also be given exercises to do in bed. Do not get out of bed on your own until your healthcare provider says you can. Talk to healthcare providers before you get up the first time. They may need to help you stand up safely. When you are able to get up on your own, sit or lie down right away if you feel weak or dizzy. Then press the call light button to let healthcare providers know you need help.
  • Medicines may be given to relieve or prevent pain, nausea, or a bacterial infection. You may also be given medicine to make it easier for you to have a bowel movement. You may need this medicine to prevent constipation.

What are the risks of a nephrectomy?

You may get an infection or bleed more than expected. You may have trouble breathing during surgery. Nerves, blood vessels, muscles, or organs may be damaged. If only part of your kidney is removed, the kidney that remains may not function as well as it should.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© Copyright Merative 2022 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.