Robotic Partial Nephrectomy

In past years, anyone diagnosed with kidney cancer usually underwent a radical nephrectomy, removal of the whole kidney. This was because most kidney tumors were discovered when they were very large and at advanced stages.

However, more recently, due to the common use of CT scans and ultrasound exams, doctors are able to discover most kidney cancers when they are small, less than 5 centimeters (about two inches), and at very early stages.  If this is the case, a urological surgeon can often remove just the tumor, with a small margin of normal kidney tissue, and preserve the rest of the kidney. This is called a partial nephrectomy.

Many studies have shown a partial nephrectomy to be better for maintaining much more normal kidney function in comparison to patients who have the whole kidney removed.  Urologists now prefer a partial nephrectomy over a radical nephrectomy whenever possible.

The lesser-pain, faster-healing alternative

An open partial nephrectomy has been shown to have just as good a cure rate for kidney cancer as an open radical nephrectomy. But while often an effective operation, an open partial nephrectomy requires a large incision in the flank (leaving an unsightly scar), three to seven days in the hospital, and a six-week convalescent period.

In recent years, surgeons have made advances through the use of a laparoscope for partial nephrectomies. A laparoscope is a tube for viewing and operating through a small surgical incision. While minimally invasive and much less taxing on a patient, this kind of surgery is very difficult and requires unusual skill and training.

A safer procedure with the da Vinci system

A breakthrough for Pacific Urology patients came in 2008, when the physicians at Pacific Urology received special training in da Vinci robotic partial nephrectomies. With a da Vinci surgical system, a surgeon inserts miniaturized instruments and a high-definition 3D camera through a small incision in the patient. Seated comfortably at a special console adjacent to the operating table, the surgeon views a magnified, high-resolution 3D image of the surgical site.

The surgeon then uses hand movements to manipulate robotic arms into precise micro-movements within the surgical area. These arms permit far more control over very delicate procedures. Meanwhile, the surgeon retains total control over the surgery, as the robotic equipment is not programmable and does not make decisions on its own.

The da Vinci robotic system has made the operation much safer to perform.  Many patients go home the next day after this minimally invasive procedure.

Learn more about our comprehensive treatments for kidney cancer by scheduling an appointment with one of our board certified urologists in the San Francisco East Bay Area.