Background: Data during the last decade show that laparoscopic nephrectomy is becoming an accepted and advantageous minimally invasive alternative to the open procedure.
Objective: To evaluate the efficacy, safety and reproducibility of laparoscopic nephrectomy in a series of 110 consecutive procedures.
Methods: A total of 110 patients underwent laparoscopic nephrectomy in our institution during the last 3 years. Their data were entered into a database and analyzed, including age, gender, indications for surgery, operative time, blood loss, intraoperative complications, conversion rates, and postoperative complications (defined as complications occurring up to 1 month after surgery). Histologic results and outpatient follow-up were also recorded.
Results: Mean age at surgery was 63 years (range 21–89 years). The indications for surgery included solid renal masses in 64 cases, non-functioning kidneys in 35, and collecting system or ureteral tumors in 11; and the procedures performed were radical nephrectomy, simple nephrectomy, or nephroureterectomy, respectively. The mean operative time was 125 minutes (range 70–310 minutes). Intraoperative complications were recorded in eight cases (7.3%), including vascular injuries of the renal artery in two, and of the renal vein, inferior vena cava and right adrenal vein in one case each. Injury of the large bowel and splenic hylus was recorded in one case and malfunction of the vascular endoGIA stapler leading to severe bleeding in one case. Nine cases were converted to open surgery (8.2%), four of them urgently due to intraoperative complications, while in another five cases conversions were elective following poor progression of the laparoscopic procedure. Comparison of the complication rate at follow-up between the initial 50 and the last 60 patients revealed no change. The conversion rate dropped significantly along the learning curve with 7 cases converted among the initial 50 patients, versus 2 in the last 60. There was no perioperative mortality. In two cases we recorded major postoperative complications, including pneumothorax treated by insertion of a thoracic drain and incarcerated inguinal hernia treated by surgery, while minor complications were seen in five patients. Histologic examination showed renal cell carcinoma pT1-T3a in 62 patients, oncocytoma in 5, transitional cell carcinoma T1G2-T3G3N1 in 10, renal sarcoma in 1, metastasis from lung tumor in 1, and end-stage kidney in the remainder. Negative margins were obtained in all cases.
Conclusions: Laparoscopic nephrectomy may be currently considered a routine, safe and effective procedure associated with minimal morbidity. The conversion rate seemed to drop significantly after 50 cases. In view of the inherent benefits for patients, in terms of reduced pain level, faster recovery and improved cosmetic results, the laparoscopic approach has become the standard approach for nephrectomy in our institution.