WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA9) -- Advances in health care technologies continue to enhance the medical landscape.
As recently as 20 years ago, the standard of care for patients with kidney tumors was to remove the entire kidney. Over the last 10 years, partial kidney removals, known as partial nephrectomy have produced just as good results as total kidney removals, or total nephrectomy.
Now, thanks to further advances in robotic and imaging technologies in operating rooms, removing the tumor itself and not the total kidney leads to greater overall survival and cost savings.
A study conducted by Dr. Keith Kowalczyk, M.D. of MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and his team compares the treatment of tumors less than 4 centimeters between 2005 and 2007. The partial kidney removal led to fewer post-surgical health problems and shorter hospital stays. Over 1,600 patients across the U.S. were reviewed. Those benefits were seen whether the procedure was done with open surgery or laparoscopically.
Dr. Kowalczyk says, "More recently, somewhat unexpected, it was showing that people that had a partial nephrectomy were having better overall survival. The most likely reason is we are leaving behind more healthy tissue, they don't have problems with kidney sufficiency in the future."
Jordan Morrisey, a nurse at MedStar Georgetown had a partial nephrectomy earlier this year. Her tumor was found during a visit to the emergency room for dehydration symptoms. A CT scan on her abdomen revealed the tumor.
Morrisey says, "At the time it was found, it was only 1 centimeter. So it would have been years before I would have had any symptoms of that tumor."
She was initially worried that she would lose her whole kidney.
Morrisey says, "Yes, I was. But when Dr. Kowalzck said it was such a small size, and that there was no need to remove the kidney if partial could be done then I was very glad to hear that because I wanted to preserve the kidney as much as possible."
If the tumor is too large or in the middle of the organ's blood supply, partial nephrectomy is not an option.
The study is published in the March issue of the British Journal of Urology International.