Before your operation for kidney cancer

Before you have your operation you will meet members of your healthcare team and have some tests. You will go into hospital either on the day of your operation or the night before. 

When you can go home depends on how the operation went and how you recover. You may be ready to go home 1 to 2 days after keyhole (laparoscopic) surgery or 2 to 4 days after open surgery. 

Pre assessment clinic

Your pre assessment appointment prepares you for your operation. This usually happens in the 2 weeks before your surgery.

At your appointment the pre assessment team may:

  • ask you questions about your health and any medicines you are taking
  • tell you when to stop eating and drinking before your operation
  • tell you if you need to stop taking any medicines before the operation
  • check your weight, blood pressure, pulse and temperature
  • ask what help and support you have at home

The pre assessment team will tell you how to prepare for your operation. What you need to do depends on what operation you are having.

They may also give you a leaflet about breathing and leg exercises to do after your operation. This is to help prevent chest infections and blood clots.

It helps to write down any questions you have and take them with you. The more you know about what is going to happen, the less frightening it will seem. You can ask more questions when you go into hospital so don’t worry if you forget to ask some.

Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) Programme

The pre assessment team might tell you about the Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) Programme. This is for people having a big operation and is to help you recover quicker. It starts before you have your operation and continues for a short time after you have gone home.

For example, they might give you carbohydrate drinks to have before your operation. How many drinks you have depends on what brand of drink the hospital uses. And when you have them depends on what time of day your operation is.

After your operation your nurses will encourage you to do breathing exercises. They will help you with getting out of bed and walking as soon as you can. And start you eating and drinking as soon as possible. This depends on the type of operation you’ve had. But your doctor will tell you when you are ready to do this.

Who you might meet before your operation

You will see your surgeon before your operation. You may also see an anaesthetist, pharmacist or other members of your treatment team. You may see them during your pre assessment or at a separate appointment.

Pre assessment nurse

They will check your:

  • general health
  • weight
  • blood pressure
  • pulse
  • temperature

They may give you a leaflet about breathing and leg exercises to do after your operation. This is to help prevent chest infections and blood clots.

They also check what help and support you have to see what you will need when you go home.

The surgeon

A member of the surgical team will tell you about:

  • the operation you are going to have
  • the benefits of having surgery
  • the possible risks
  • what to expect afterwards

You can ask them any questions you have. They will give you all the information about the operation. Then they will ask you to sign a consent form to say you agree to the surgery.

The anaesthetist

An anaesthetist gives you the general anaesthetic Open a glossary item and looks after you during the operation. 

They make sure you are fit enough for the surgery. The anaesthetist who will be giving you the anaesthetic during your operation will also see you on the morning of the surgery.

Specialist nurse (CNS)

Your CNS can talk through your treatment plan and try to answer any questions that you have. They can refer you to other members of the health care team if necessary. They are usually your main point of contact, and care for you throughout your treatment. 

Tests you might have

Before your surgery, you have tests to make sure you’re fit enough to make a good recovery. These may be arranged by your specialist or at your pre assessment appointment. These may include:

  • blood tests to check your general health and see how well your kidneys are working
  • an electrocardiogram (ECG) Open a glossary item to check your heart is healthy
  • a urine test to see if you have an infection

Depending on your general health you may also have:

  • a chest x-ray to check your lungs are healthy
  • breathing tests (called lung function tests)
  • a test that measures your ability to exercise (cardio pulmonary exercise test)
  • an ultrasound of your heart (echocardiogram Open a glossary item)
  • a scan to check how well your kidneys are working - this is called a DMSA scan

Learning breathing and leg exercises

Breathing exercises help to stop you from getting a chest infection after surgery. If you smoke, it helps if you can stop at least a few weeks before your operation.

Leg exercises help to stop blood clots forming in your legs. You might also have medicines to stop the blood from clotting. You have them as small injections under the skin.

You start the injections after your operation. You might also wear compression stockings and pumps on your calves or feet to help the circulation.

Your nurse and physiotherapist will get you up out of bed quite quickly after your surgery. This is to help prevent chest infections and blood clots forming.

This 3-minute video shows you how to do the breathing and leg exercises.

Going into hospital

Before you go into hospital you might need to sort out a few things. This can include:

  • work

  • care for children or other loved ones

  • care for your pets

  • care of your house

  • cancelling your milk, newspapers or food deliveries

What to take with you

The pre assessment nurse will suggest what to take with you when you go into hospital.

They may ask you to only bring a few essentials and ask that your relatives or friends bring the rest when they visit you. If this will not be possible let the pre assessment nurse know.

Some examples of what to take are:

  • medicines you normally take

  • nightgowns or pyjamas

  • underwear

  • dressing gown

  • slippers

  • contact lenses, solution, glasses and a case

  • wash bag with soap, a flannel or sponge, toothbrush and toothpaste

  • sanitary wear or tampons

  • razor

  • towel

  • small amount of money

  • magazines, books, playing cards

  • headphones and music to listen to

  • your mobile or a tablet and charger

Family and friends

Your family or friends can usually go in with you to help you settle in. You’ll need to check the time of your operation and when the visiting times are.

The time it takes to do the operation depends on the type of surgery you have. Most operations take a few hours. The nurse will tell your family or friends who to phone to find out how you are.

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