Laparoscopic kidney surgery entails placing the patient under general anesthesia, and then making three 1-centimeter incisions and one 2-inch incision in his abdomen, says Johns Hopkins Medicine. The surgeon inserts a laparoscope and miniaturized instruments into these incisions.
The laparoscope has a tiny camera that transmits images of the surgical site to a monitor, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. This helps to guide the surgeon. If the kidney is to be removed, the small instruments dissect it and the kidney is removed. Laparoscopic kidney surgeries last between two and four hours, according to Mayo Clinic. The incisions are closed up with only a few stitches or surgical tape, and the resulting scars are barely visible.
Besides removal of an entire kidney, laparoscopic kidney surgery can remove part of a kidney, fix a blockage between the kidney and a ureter, or open up a cyst to drain it, says Mayo Clinic. It can even be used to let a healthy patient donate a kidney. The complication rates for laparoscopic surgery are lower than those for traditional open surgery, and as of 2015, the procedure is used on people who had pre-existing conditions such as obesity and pulmonary disease. Before, these people were considered too high-risk for laparoscopic kidney surgery.