You had surgery to remove part of one kidney or the entire kidney, the lymph nodes near it, and maybe your adrenal gland.
You may have an 8- to 12-inch surgical cut over your belly or along your side. If you had laparoscopic surgery, you may have three or four small cuts.
What to Expect at Home
Recovering from kidney removal usually takes around 3 to 6 weeks. You may have some of these symptoms:
Pain in your belly or on the side where you had the kidney removed. The pain should get better over several days to a week.
Bruising around your wounds. This will go away on its own.
Redness around your wounds. This is normal.
Plan to have someone drive you home from the hospital. Do not drive yourself home. You may also need help with everyday activities for the first 1 to 2 weeks. Set up your home so it is easier to use.
You should be able to do most of your regular activities within 4 to 6 weeks. Before then:
Do not lift anything heavier than 10 pounds until you see your doctor.
Avoid all strenuous activity, including heavy exercises, weightlifting, and other activities that make you breathe hard or strain.
Taking short walks and using the stairs is OK.
Light housework is OK.
Do not push yourself too hard. Slowly increase the amount of time and the intensity of your exercise.
To manage your pain:
Your doctor will prescribe pain medicines for you to use at home.
If you are taking pain pills 3 or 4 times a day, try taking them at the same times each day for 3 to 4 days. They may work better this way. Be aware that the pain medicine can cause constipation. Try to maintain normal bowel habits.
Try getting up and moving around if you are having some pain. This may ease your pain.
You may put some ice over the wound. But keep the wound dry.
Press a pillow over your incision when you cough or sneeze to ease discomfort and protect your incision.
You will need to keep your incision area clean, dry, and protected. Change your dressings the way your doctor or nurse taught you.
If stitches, staples, or glue was used to close your skin, you may take a shower.
If tape strips were used to close your skin, cover the wounds with plastic wrap before showering for the first week. Do not try to wash the tape strips off. Let them fall off on their own.
Do not soak in a bathtub or hot tub, or go swimming, until your doctor tells you it is OK.
Eat a normal diet. Drink 4 to 8 glasses of water or liquids a day, unless your doctor tells you not to.
If you have hard stools:
Try to walk and be more active. But do not overdo it.
If you can, take less of some of the pain medicines your doctor gave you. Some can cause constipation.
Try a stool softener. You can get these at any pharmacy without a prescription.
Ask your doctor or nurse what laxatives you can take.
Ask your doctor about foods that are high in fiber, or try psyllium (Metamucil).
When to Call the Doctor
Call your doctor or nurse if:
You have a temperature above 100.5°F.
Your surgical wounds are bleeding, are red or warm to the touch, or have a thick, yellow, green, or milky drainage.
Your belly swells or hurts.
You have nausea or vomiting for more than 24 hours.
You have pain that does not get better when you take your pain medicines.
It is hard to breathe.
You have a cough that does not go away.
You cannot drink or eat.
You cannot pee (urinate).
Kenny PA, Wotkowicz C, Libertino JA. Contemporary open surgery of the kidney. In: Wein AJ, ed. Campbell-Walsh Urology. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 54.
Louis S. Liou, MD, PhD, Chief of Urology, Cambridge Health Alliance, Visiting Assistant Professor of Surgery, Harvard Medical School. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.