Penn Urology

Partial Nephrectomy

Penn Urologists are now performing robotic partial nephrectomy surgery for patients with kidney cancer. The object of partial nephrectomy surgery is to remove a tumor and leave the remaining kidney in place. In addition to robotic surgery, the surgical techniques used today to perform partial nephrectomy include open surgery and laparoscopic surgery.

Benefits and Surgical Advances

Robotic partial nephrectomy is the culmination of many years of advances in surgical technique. When compared to earlier surgical methods, the benefits of robotic partial nephrectomy for patients include less post-operative pain, less blood loss and a quicker return to normal, everyday activities than with conventional open surgery.

Learn more about the benefits of robotic surgery

How Does it Work?

Because so much blood passes through the kidney, the kidney's major blood vessels are closed with clamps during partial nephrectomy. This "warm ischemia" cannot continue for longer than 30 minutes, however, without damaging the kidney tissues.

During this 30 minute interval, the surgeon must remove the tumor with a margin of healthy tissue and reconstruct the remaining healthy tissue. This is extremely difficult to do with non-robotic minimally invasive techniques — so much so that these approaches have not been widely used for partial nephrectomy.

Nephrectomy incisions

*In Nephrectomy, one incision is enlarged for removal of the kidney.

To perform robotic surgery, four tiny incisions are made in the patient's abdomen and the laparoscopic instruments are carefully inserted and attached to the robot. Once setup is completed, the surgeon sits at the console where the surgeon controls the robotic instruments.

Learn more about how robotic surgery works