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July 2007, Volume 57, Issue 7

Original Article

Laparoscopic Nephrectomy : Technique and Outcome

Zafar Zaidi   ( The Indus Hospital, C-76, Sector 31/5, Korangi Crossing, Korangi, Karachi )
Lubna Samad   ( The Indus Hospital, C-76, Sector 31/5, Korangi Crossing, Korangi, Karachi )
Shahid Aquil   ( The Indus Hospital, C-76, Sector 31/5, Korangi Crossing, Korangi, Karachi )


Objective:To review case series of retroperitoneal laparoscopic nephrectomies. Methods:Between May 2003 and May 2006, 60 laparoscopic nephrectomies were performed by a singlesurgeon. Laparoscopic route for nephrectomy was retroperitoneal in 50 cases and transperitoneal in 10 cases.Results:The patients included 37 males and 23 females. The mean age was 18.5 +16.6 years and ranged from2 years to 60 years. Right sided nephrectomy was performed in 31 cases while left kidney was removed in 29cases. The indications for nephrectomy were stones (n=29), dysplasia (n=11), chronic pyelonephritis (n=8), pelviureteric junction obstruction (n=4), tuberculosis (n=3), vesicoureteric reflux (n=3) and ureterocele(n=2). Meanoperating time for laparoscopic nephrectomy alone was 140 +51.1 min (range 25-300 minutes). In our series,19 additional surgical procedures were performed under the same general anaesthesia. The mean hospital stayfor all patients was 3.1 +2.39 days; however the mean hospital stay for those patients who underwent laparoscopic nephrectomy without any additional procedure is 2.2 +0.92 days (1.5 - 4 days). The mean size ofkidney removed was 7.4 +3.13 cm (4.6-15.9 cm). Complications were seen in 2 patients (3%); one developed wound infection and the other was found to have a haematoma for which the wound was re-explored.Conversion to open nephrectomy was required in 7 patients (11.6%) due to bleeding from renal pedicle (n=4),poor vision secondary to pus spillage from pyonephrotic kidney (n= 2) and failure to progress due to indwelling percutaneous nephrostomy. There was no mortality and none of the patients had prolonged ileus. Blood transfusion was not required in any case. There was no bowel injury or port site herniation.Conclusion:Laparoscopic nephrectomy is a feasible and safe technique. The length of hospital stay andconvalescence is short and hence rapid return to normal activity is expected


Nephrectomy is one of the most common ablative surgeries performed by urologists. Apart from the psychological trauma of losing a kidney, the patient usually undergoes significant discomfort and disfigurement due tothe extensive surgical incision. The traditional approaches require a large muscle cutting skin incision in order to reachthe organ. Until the last decade there was no option but toundergo this mutilation in order to achieve the end result.Retroperitoneoscopy was initially described by Bartel1in 1969 but was considered to be technically cumbersome because of limited working space, lack ofclear cut anatomic landmarks, and abundant fat in there troperitoneum. Wickham 2 reported the initial retroperitoneoscopic ureterolithotomy in 1979. In 1982Bay-Nielson and Schultz 3 performed endoscopy of theretroperitoneum to remove upper ureteral calculi. The first attempts at retroperitoneal endoscopic nephrectomy were made by Coptcoat4, Wickham and Miller5, Weinberg and Smith6in the early 1980s, and were based on the techniqueof percutaneous renal stone surgery. The real break throughwas a transperitoneal laparoscopic nephrectomy performedby Clayman et al in 1991.7In the last decade minimally invasive surgery hasbecome the frontier of surgical development. From itsinitial diagnostic use in gynaecology to the current advanced oncological and reconstructive surgery,laparoscopy has become firmly established in the armamentarium of surgeons in every field. The advantages of lower post-operative pain, minimal scars, rapid recovery and early return to work have offset the marginal increasein instrumentation costs and longer training period for thesurgeon. With the introduction of re-usable gadgetry andcost consciousness this can be minimized. We have reviewed a case series of laparoscopic nephrectomies; and discussed the surgical technique.

Patients and Methods

 Between May 2003 and May 2006, 60 laparoscopic nephrectomies were performed by a single surgeon. Surgical Technique: Since majority of the cases in this series are done via the retroperitoneal route and it is ourpreferred route, hence surgical details of this procedure are described. The procedure is performed under general anaesthesia with end tidal CO2 monitoring. Intravenous antibiotics are routinely administered. After bladder catheterization the patient is placed in the standard lateral kidney position. The authors always use the open (Hasson)8 technique for obtaining initial access. A10 -12 mm incisionis made in the lumbar (Petit's) triangle below the 12th rib atthe lateral border of paraspinalis muscles. The muscle fibresare gently separated and entry is gained into theretroperitoneum by gently piercing the thora columbarfascia with the tip of an artery forceps. Ahome made balloon dilator is constructed as described by Gaur.9Thisconsists of a glove finger stall tied by silk over the end of asuction catheter. The balloon dilator is then inserted into the opening. Distension of the balloon with air rapidly and atraumatically displaces the adjacent fat and peritoneum,there by creating an adequate working space for laparoscopic surgery within that area. A10 mm port is thenplaced in this opening for the laparoscope. All work isvisualized via a monitor at the head of the table using a high quality charge-couple device (CCD) camera connected tothe laparoscope. The 2nd and 3rd ports are inserted under direct vision as shown in Figure 1. An automatic insufflatoris used to maintain the CO2 pressure at 15 mm Hg. ThePsoas muscle acts as a landmark and should be sought. Inthe retroperitoneal approach, the posterior aspect of the kidney is reached first and the pulsating renal artery is identified at the hilum. The renal hilum is dissected, renalvein and renal artery cleaned of fat and clipped using LigaClips 400 series™ (Ethicon). Endo GIAif available canalso be used. Three clips are applied on the proximal part ofthe vessel and 2 on the distal end.10The vessels are dividedand then further dissection of the kidney is performed separating it from the surrounding fat. The ureter is clippedand divided and once the kidney is fully mobilized it isremoved from the body by incising one of the port sites andincreasing it to 2.5-3 cm. Adrain is always left in there troperitoneum and CO2 evacuated before the end of theprocedure.If the kidney is hydronephrotic, it is aspirated to geta wider working space and to facilitate grasping of kidneytissue. Laparoscopically guided percutaneous need leaspiration is performed. This minimizes the spillage in there troperitoneal space obviating the frequent use of suction,loss of pneumoperitoneum and subsequent delays.


Specimen removal is by increasing the opening of aport to allow delivery of the specimen. Endo catch bag is not used due to cost of the device.Foleys catheter is removed within 24 hours and oral feeding started after 12 to 18 hours after confirming returnof bowel sounds. Patient is fully mobilized within 24 hoursafter which the drain is removed.


 In our series of 60 patients, 50 laparoscopic nephrectomies were done via the retroperitoneal route while10 nephrectomies were performed via the transadominalroute. The mean age of patients was 18.5 +16.6 years (2-60years). There were 37 males and 23 females. Right sided nephrectomy was performed in 31 cases while left kidney was removed in 29 cases. The indications for nephrectomy are given in Table 1. Mean operating time for laparoscopic nephrectomy alone was 140 +51.1 min (range 25-300 minutes).Nineteen additional surgical procedures were  performed in21 patients under the same general anaesthesia and are detailed in Table 2 (some patients had more than one additional procedure).The mean size of kidney removed was 7.4 +3.13 cm

Table 1. Indications for Nephrectomy.

Indication for Nephrectomy









Chronic pyelonephritis



Pelviureteric junction obstruction






Vesicoureteric reflux









Table 2. Additional Procedures.

Additional Procedures

Ureteric Reimplant (contra lateral)


Augmentation Ureterocystoplasty (ipsi lateral ureter)


Mitrofanoff appendicovesicostomy


Ureterorenoscopy (contra lateral) and stone removal


Bladder stone removal


Ureteric stent insertion (contra lateral)


Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy (contra lateral)


Bladder neck incision


Closure vesicostomy


Ureterocele incision







(4.6-15.9 cm).  Histopathological examination of 4 kidney srevealed Xanthogranulomatous Pyelonephritis (XGP).The mean hospital stay for all the patients was 3.1 +2.3 days how ever the mean hospital stay for those patientswho underwent laparoscopic nephrectomy without any additional procedure was 2.2 +0.92 days (range 1.5 - 4days).Complications were seen in 2 patients (3%).  One patient had a wound infection secondary to spillage of pusin the retroperitoneal cavity while one child required re-exploration of wound due to a haematoma from the cutureteric end. He was diagnosed to have IdiopathicThrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP).  Conversion to open nephrectomy was performed in 7 patients (11.6%), 4patients (6%) had bleeding from renal pedicle necessitatingopen conversion, 2 patients (3%) had open conversion due to excessive pus in the kidney which had spilled in there troperitoneum resulting in poor visualization. In one patient there was failure to progress. She had a longstanding indwelling percutaneous nephrostomy and it was impossible to dissect around it. There was no mortality andnone of the patients had prolonged ileus. Blood transfusion was not required in any case. There was no bowel injury orport site herniation.


 Laparoscopy has raised great interest in the past few years in the field of urology. It has evolved from a simple diagnostic manoeuvre to complex operative procedures. Ingeneral, from an anatomic point of view,retroperitoneoscopy seems to be more suitable than the transperitoneal laparoscopic approach to reach the upperurinary tract. It also is less invasive and complies with the criteria for open renal surgery. The first attempts atretroperitoneal endoscopic nephrectomy were made byWickham and Miller5in early 1980s and was based on the technique of percutaneous renal stone surgery. The real breakthrough was a transperitoneal laparoscopicnephrectomy performed by Clayman et al in 1991.7Endoscopic access to upper and lower retroperitoneum did not find wide acceptance initially. The main reason was the suboptimal view due to inability to establish pneumoperitoneum. On the other hand establishment of a pneumoperitoneum using CO2 insufflation alone proved tobe a problem. The balloon dissection technique described by Gaur9 allowed the safe and reproducible creation of aretroperitoneal operating field. Using single digit dissection Rassweiler11has shown it to be sufficient for adequateexposure of the retroperitoneal space and reduces theoperating time by 10-15 minutes. The basic surgical technique of laparoscopic nephrectomy has been described in detail by Clayman7andGill.12The technique described here has some modifications as compared to the original descriptions. Apre-operative angiogram or renal artery embolization wasnot performed as it adds to cost and morbidity and makes little difference to outcome. Aureteric catheter was notused, so preliminary cystoscopy can be avoided unless otherwise indicated. Some technical points should be detailed for the avoidance of complications: strict attention to basic surgical principles, placement of trocars under direct vision,meticulous attention to avoid even minor haemorrhage as blood in the field obscures vision dramatically,  approaching the renal hilum before perirenal or ureteric dissection if atall possible,  later dissection of anterior-medial aspect ofkidney to avoid the kidney from falling on the posterior-lateral pedicle area, adequate exposure and retraction, early conversion to open surgery if failure to progress and aregular team of surgeons and nurses to reduce unnecessary delays and frustration.The relatively long operative duration reported bysome investigators13for laparoscopic nephrectomy and nephroureterectomy has been used by critics to argueagainst the widespread adoption of this technique. The present mean duration of 140 minutes compares favourably with 153 minutes14and 154 minutes15 reported in otherseries and in a contemporary open surgical series.16 Moreover the present series has a significant number of concurrent surgical procedures performed ranging from reconstruction to simple cystoscopy. By maintaining the operative duration in line with that for open surgery, we support reports rating laparoscopic nephrectomy over all as less expensive than open nephrectomy.17 The complication and conversion rates in the currentstudy are broadly similar to those published previously. Gillet al18 reported a 16% rate of complication and 6% rate of conversion to open surgery in a multi institutional study.Complications in that series tended to occur in the first 20cases and were more common in patients undergoing laparoscopic radical nephrectomy. Fahlenkamp19reportedan 8.3% complication rate and 10.3% rate of conversion toopen surgery in a German multi institutional experience of2407 procedures. Keely [14] in a series of 100 laparoscopic nephrectomies identified risk factors for complications and reported 18% complications and 5% conversion to open surgery. They found that XGP, pyonephrosis and previous surgery proved to be significant risk factors for complications and conversion to open surgery. Recent studies20,21 have reported complication rates of 8.7% and7.3% including injuries to spleen, inferior vena cava andaorta, while conversion rates were 6.7% and 8.2% respectively. Given the greater difficulty involved in performing laparoscopic nephrectomy compared with diagnosticlaparoscopy, a longer period of training and experience should be expected. Peters22 in a survey of the laparoscopic experience of paediatric colleagues, reported that complication rates diminished significantly only after 100cases.


For a selected group of patients, laparoscopic nephrectomy is a feasible and safe technique. The length of hospital stay and convalescence is short and return to normal activity is rapid. Moreover, laparoscopic nephrectomy can easily and safely be performed with concurrent surgical procedures of varying complexity without added morbidity and with comparable results.


we woulld like to acknowledge the contributions of Dr. Badar Siddiqui and Dr. Mumtaz Maher in training and encouraging laparascopy. Both are surgeons and teacherspar excellence.


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Vol. 57, No. 7, July 2007


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