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A nephrectomy is the removal of a kidney. This may be done to remove a kidney tumor or a non-working kidney. In some cases, only a partial nephrectomy (taking out part of the kidney) is needed. When a laparoscopic nephrectomy is done there will be about 3 – 5 small incisions. Sometimes a laparoscopic hand-assist approach is used. This can be done through a few small incisions and one larger incision. 

Before Surgery

To prepare for surgery you will need to empty stool from your bowel. A few days before your bowel prep, go to your local drugstore. Buy 1 bottle of magnesium citrate (10 oz). Store it in the fridge until you need to drink it. It is easier to drink if it is cold.

The Day Before Surgery

  • Eat a light breakfast and lunch, avoid greasy foods and red meat.

  • Drink only clear liquids after 12 noon up to midnight (no limit on amount).

    • Water 

    • Broth

    • Juice without pulp (apple, cranberry, grape)

    • Popsicles

    • Hard candy

    • Clear Jell-O® (no fruit, in it)

    • Sparkling water or soda

    • Weak coffee or tea, no creamer 

    • Gatorade® or other sport-type drink

    • Boost Breeze®/Resource®

  • After lunch, do not eat solid food, or drink juice with pulp, dairy products or alcohol.

  • _____ At 2:00 pm drink magnesium citrate 10 oz. (1 bottle). Drink 1 liter of a sport-type drink with electrolytes before midnight (Gatorade®). After this, you may drink as much clear liquid as you wish until midnight.

  • Shower before bed with Hibiclens® soap. 

  • Do not eat or drink after midnight.

  • The day of surgery shower with Hibiclens® soap before you leave for the hospital.

After Surgery

  • It is normal for you to have some pain in the area for 2-4 weeks. Pain pills will be ordered for you. Follow the directions for using these pills.

  • You will be walking soon after your surgery. This is very important to your recovery. The pain pills will make it easier for you to move around. 

  • You will be in the hospital 2-3 days.

  • On the day of discharge, you will need to have your ride ready to pick you up before 10:00AM

  • Expect to get back to your normal routine in 10-12 days.


  • Do not lift more than 20 pounds for 4 weeks. 

  • Nothing strenuous until okayed by your doctor.

  • Drink at least 8 glasses of fluid per day (any kind of fluid is fine, except no alcohol)

  • You may shower. Do not soak your incisions in a hot tub, bath tub, or swim until they are healed, at least 2 weeks. You may wear Band-Aids® if you need to. Wear Band-Aids® if your incisions are in a skin fold, your clothes rub on them, or they are draining. Change them at least daily and more often if they get wet or soiled. 

  • Resume sex when you feel ready.

  • Do not drive for 2 weeks.

  • The length of time you will need to be off work depends on your recovery and the type of work you do. Check with your surgeon before going back to work.


Your first follow-up visit will be made for you before you leave the hospital.

When to Call

  • Shortness of breath or chest pain, call 911.

  • Increasing redness, warmth, or swelling of an incision.

  • Pus-like drainage from the incision or drain site.

  • Temperature over 100.5° F for two readings taken 4 hours apart.

  • Decrease in urine output.

  • Bloody urine.

Who to Call

UW Health Urology


East Madison Hospital- Urology


1 S. Park Medical Center- Urology


UW Urology Pre-op Team 


After hours, nights, weekends, and holidays, the clinic number is answered by the paging operator. Ask for the urology doctor on call. Leave your name and phone number with the area code. The doctor will call you back.

Your urology doctor is _________________

If you are a patient receiving care at UnityPoint – Meriter, Swedish American or a health system outside of UW Health, please use the phone numbers provided in your discharge instructions for any questions or concerns.