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Kidney Disorders and Kidney Cancer

male anatomy kidneys

The kidneys are two small organs located behind the abdomen, on each side of the spine. By producing urine, kidneys remove toxic by-products and excess fluids from the body, which helps maintain a critical balance of salt, potassium and acid.

A common condition affecting the kidneys is blockage of the ureters, the tubes that transport urine from the kidneys to the bladder. Blockages of the ureters can be present from birth or acquired through illness or injury, and can create serious side effects like infections and kidney stones. If left untreated, blockages can cause chronic pain and may damage the kidney over time.

Cancer, a second condition affecting the kidneys, can form in the small tubes inside the kidney, which are used for filtering blood, and in the center of the kidney where urine collects.

Treatment Options

A non-cancerous kidney condition involving a blockage can usually be treated by removing it; depending on the type of blockage, surgery may be used. Kidney cancer, on the other hand, is relatively resistant to radiation and chemotherapy.

As a result, the gold standard treatment for localized kidney cancer is removal of the kidney or kidney tumors. Kidney surgery is traditionally performed using an open approach, which requires a large abdominal incision. Another approach, conventional laparoscopy, is less invasive, but limits the doctor's dexterity, visualization and control, compared to open surgery.

da Vinci ® for Kidney Conditions

If your doctor recommends surgery for a kidney condition, you may be a candidate for a new, minimally invasive approach — da Vinci Surgery.

The da Vinci Surgical System uses state-of-the-art technology to help your doctor provide the gold standard treatment, where indicated, and also perform a more precise operation. da Vinci offers several potential benefits to patients facing kidney surgery, including:

  • Excellent clinical outcomes and cancer control3
  • Short hospital stay4
  • Low blood loss3,4
  • Precise tumor removal and kidney reconstruction4,5
  • Excellent chance of preserving the kidney, in certain operations5
  • Low rate of operative complications5

If your doctor is able to preserve your healthy, functioning kidney tissue, this can help to prevent future kidney disease and even dialysis.

Incision Comparison: Open Surgery vs. da Vinci Partial Nephrectomy

kidney anatomy open vs davinci

da Vinci Surgery: Precision and Dexterity:

da Vinci Surgery for kidney conditions uses the tried and true techniques of open surgery and applies them to a robotic-assisted, minimally invasive approach. With the benefits of da Vinci Surgery, doctors may be able to perform a partial nephrectomy or kidney-sparing surgery (healthy, functioning kidney tissue is spared) to help minimize the onset of chronic kidney disease.

The precision and dexterity of the da Vinci Surgical System's advanced instrumentation provides for a minimally invasive approach to treating kidney disorders and kidney cancer.

As with any surgery, these benefits cannot be guaranteed since surgery is unique to each patient, condition and procedure.
If you are a candidate for kidney surgery, talk to a urologist who performs da Vinci Partial Nephrectomy.


  1. Huang WC, Elkin EB, Levey AS, Jang TL, Russo P; Partial Nephrectomy Versus Radical Nephrectomy in Patients With Small Renal Tumors-Is there a Difference in Mortality and Cardiovascular Outcomes; The Journal of Urology, Vol. 181, 55-62, January 2009.
  2. Guide for Management of Clinical Stage 1 Renal Mass, 2009; American Urological Association Education and Research, Inc. www.auanet.org, URL: http://www.auanet.org/content/media/renalmass09.pdf?CFID=3292545&CFTOKEN=94898243&jsessionid=843026c2999c59bc411027365115951a1118
  3. Benway BM, Wang AJ, Cabello JC, Bhayani SB; Robotic Partial Nephrectomy with Sliding-Clip Renorrhaphy: Technique and Outcomes; European Association of Urology, Accepted December 28, 2008. Published online ahead of print on January 7, 2009
  4. Rogers CG, Menon M, Weise ES, Robotic partial nephrectomy: a multi-institutional analysis; J Robotic Surgery (2008) 2:141-143 DOI 10.1007/s11701-008-0098-2
  5. Bhayani SB, Das N., Robotic-assisted laparoscopic partial nephrectomy for suspected renal cell carcinoma. BMC Surgery 2008, 8:16 doi:10.1186/1471-2482-8-16.

All surgery presents risk, including da Vinci Surgery. Results, including cosmetic results, may vary. Serious complications may occur in any surgery, up to and including death. Examples of serious and life-threatening complications, which may require hospitalization, include injury to tissues or organs; bleeding; infection, and internal scarring that can cause long-lasting dysfunction or pain. Temporary pain or nerve injury has been linked to the inverted position often used during abdominal and pelvic surgery. Patients should understand that risks of surgery include potential for human error and potential for equipment failure. Risk specific to minimally invasive surgery may include: a longer operative time; the need to convert the procedure to an open approach; or the need for additional or larger incision sites. Converting the procedure to open could mean a longer operative time, long time under anesthesia, and could lead to increased complications. Research suggests that there may be an increased risk of incision-site hernia with single-incision surgery. Patients who bleed easily, have abnormal blood clotting, are pregnant or morbidly obese are typically not candidates for minimally invasive surgery, including da Vinci Surgery. Other surgical approaches are available. Patients should review the risks associated with all surgical approaches. They should talk to their doctors about their surgical experience and to decide if da Vinci is right for them. For more complete information on surgical risks, safety and indications for use, please refer to http://www.davincisurgery.com/da-vinci-surgery/safety-information.php.

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