Dr. med. Dirk Manski

 You are here: Urology Textbook > Surgery (procedures) > Simple nephrectomy

Open Simple nephrectomy: Surgical Steps and Complications


Simple nephrectomy is the surgical removal of a kidney, in contrast to radical nephrectomy without adipose capsule, adrenal glands, ureters, or lymph nodes.

For more techniques of kidney surgery see open radical nephrectomy, open partial nephrectomy, laparoscopic (radical) nephrectomy and retroperitoneoscopic nephrectomy.

Indications for Simple Nephrectomy


Coagulation disorders. The other contraindications depend on the surgical risk due to the patient's comorbidity, the renal function of the contralateral kidney, and the surgical procedure's impact on the patient's quality of life or life expectancy.

Surgical Technique of Simple Nephrectomy

Preoperative Patient Preparation:

Patient Positioning:

fig. flank incision for nephrectomy

Surgical access to the kidney with a flank incision: the patient is placed in lateral position on a flexed operation table.

Flank Incision:

The simple nephrectomy is usually done via a flank incision. The dissection is done between the 11th and 12th rib to spare the subcostal nerve. Blunt dissection of the layer between renal fascia and the psoas muscle is done. The peritoneum is dissected of the ventral portion of the renal fascia until the renal vein is identified. On the right side, the duodenum has to be dissected of the vena cava (Kocher maneuver).

Dissection of the Renal Hilum:

The ureter is mobilized, dissected and ligated well below the lower pole of the kidney. The dissection is carried on in cranial direction following the ureter, until the renal hilum is reached. The renal vessels are separated and dissected using overholt clamps and double ligation with e.g., Vicryl 0.

Preparation of the Upper Pole:

The kidney is completely detached from the fat capsule and removed, sparing the adrenal gland.

Management of adhesions and scarring:

Especially in benign cases, adhesions between the renal fat and organ capsule are intense and sometimes extend into neighboring organs and vessels (e.g., xanthogranulomatous nephritis, tuberculosis or after multiple kidney surgery). Nephrectomy may be easier in the layer of radical nephrectomy. Alternatively, intracapsular nephrectomy may be performed as a last option: the organ parenchyma is dissected from the organ capsule which remains in the body. This surgical technique is indicated when there is a high risk of adjacent organ injury due to adhesions, such as removal of a non-functioning kidney transplant.


Drainage of the retroperitoneum is often performed, but it is probably not necessary after uncomplicated nephrectomy.

Postoperative Care after Open Nephrectomy

General measures:


Analgesics with a combination of NSAIDs and opioids. Peridural anesthesia facilitates postoperative pain management.

Drains and catheters:

Quick removal of the bladder catheter after uneventful surgery for stable patients within 1–2 days, wound drainage (often not necessary) for 1–2 days.

Complications of Open Nephrectomy

Index: 1–9 A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


J. A. Smith, S. S. Howards, G. M. Preminger, and R. R. Dmochowski, Hinman’s Atlas of Urologic Surgery Revised Reprint. Elsevier, 2019.

  Deutsche Version: Technik und Komplikationen der lumbalen Nephrektomie