It’s normal to experience some pain around the site of your incision in the weeks after kidney removal. Some people have pain that persists for more than 3 months after their procedure.
A nephrectomy is an extensive but potentially lifesaving procedure that involves the removal of a kidney. Despite playing an important role in treating kidney disease, it can lead to long-term side effects such as chronic pain.
You may have a kidney removed to:
- treat kidney cancer
- treat other kidney problems
- donate a kidney to another person
Each year in the United States, doctors perform about
It’s normal to experience some pain around your incisions, especially in the week after your procedure. Some people experience chronic pain, which the International Association for the Study of Pain defines as pain lasting longer than
In this article, we take a deeper look at what type of pain may develop after a nephrectomy and how long your pain may last.
It’s normal to have some pain around your incisions after a nephrectomy. This pain often improves in 1–2 weeks, but some people develop chronic pain that persists for 3 months or longer.
Rates of chronic pain
In a 2019 study, researchers found that
Younger age was associated with more pain with the following activities:
- lying down
- daily activities
- walking up stairs
In another 2019 study, researchers found that
Here are some types of pain you may develop after your procedure.
Flank pain after nephrectomy
Pain often develops around the incision site where scar tissue forms. One of the most common nephrectomy techniques involves making an incision through your flank.
Back pain after nephrectomy
Back pain can develop after a nephrectomy due to:
- damage to your nerves
- other complications, like rhabdomyolysis
- injury to the lower back due to not using core muscles during the recovery period
Nerve pain after nephrectomy
Abdominal pain after nephrectomy
Doctors sometimes perform nephrectomies through incisions in your abdomen. You may develop abdominal pain around your incision site if you have this technique.
Glute pain after nephrectomy
Shoulder pain after nephrectomy
Some people experience temporary pain in their shoulders due to a leakage of the carbon dioxide that surgeons pump into the abdominal cavity to make the kidney more visible. This pain usually goes away within a few days.
Many people find that their pain mostly or completely resolves within weeks of their surgery. However, some people have pain that lingers for months to years.
|Follow-up time||Percentage reporting pain|
|3 months–2 years||12.2%|
If your pain persists, your doctor
- surgery to repair the nerve damage
- nerve blocks or nerve ablation
- certain lifestyle changes, including:
- cognitive behavioral therapy
- medications like:
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- acetaminophen (Tylenol)
- anticonvulsants, like gabapentin and pregabalin
- antidepressants, like tricyclic antidepressants and serotonin-norepinephrine
- NMDA receptor antagonists
- opioids, which may be helpful but are not a first-line treatment due to their various side effects
Other potential complications of nephrectomy include:
- bleeding requiring a blood transfusion
- an allergic reaction to the anesthetic
- a small risk of kidney failure, if the other kidney is compromised
- death, though this happens in fewer than 1% of cases
Laparoscopic nephrectomy is generally associated with
Here are some frequently asked questions about pain after kidney removal.
What is chronic postsurgical pain after nephrectomy?
Chronic postsurgical pain persists for at least
What are the long-term side effects of kidney removal?
One kidney is often just as effective at filtering your blood as two. If the function of your one kidney is compromised, however, you may have symptoms like high blood pressure, blood in your urine, and swelling in your lower body.
Chronic pain after kidney removal may develop for reasons such as nerve damage, inflammation, and scarring. If you do develop chronic pain, your doctor may recommend medications or physical therapy to ease your symptoms.