Kidney Patient Resources

Kidney Patient FAQs

a. Primary Kidney Cryoablation

  • How is cryoablation performed?

    There are two approaches typically used to treat kidney tumors with cryoablation; the type chosen will depend on the physician’s judgment, and the location and size of the tumor(s) to be treated. The majority of kidney cryoablation procedures performed are percutaneous procedures. Alternatively, a laparoscopic procedure may be performed. In either approach, the needles are inserted percutaneously.

  • What is percutaneous kidney cryoablation?

    Percutaneous procedures are procedures in which access to the target tissue (e.g. kidney) is gained by needle(s) inserted through the skin. Percutaneous kidney cryoablation uses very thin needles, inserted through the skin to the kidney.

  • What is an image-guided procedure?

    An image-guided procedure uses CT (computerized tomography), MR (magnetic resonance) or, occasionally, ultrasound imaging technology to give the doctor a clear view on a screen of the area to be treated. The imaging technology allows the doctor to accurately insert the cryoablation needles through the skin into the kidney tumor, carefully position the needles and control the creation of the ice to help make sure the entire tumor is treated.

  • What is laparoscopic kidney cryoablation?

    A laparoscopic, or keyhole, procedure is performed through three or four small incisions placed into the patient. A tiny camera is inserted into the abdominal cavity through one of these small incisions and sends images to a screen. The camera allows the doctor to have excellent visibility to position the needles and to accurately control the size, shape and location of the ice. The position and size of the ice will also be checked by a special ultrasound scan to help make sure the entire tumor is treated.

  • What happens to the tumor once it has been frozen?

    The cryoablation freezing process destroys the cells in the tumor. There is no need to remove this dead tissue as the body’s own immune system recognizes the cells are dead and sends white blood cells to clear them away. Once the clearing process is complete, only scar tissue remains where the tumor was previously located.

  • Does cryoablation cure kidney cancer?

    For patients considered suitable for kidney cryoablation, it is likely that the procedure will effectively treat kidney cancer.

    Numerous clinical studies have demonstrated that cryoablation successfully destroyed the cancer in the targeted tumors.

  • Who is suitable for cryoablation?

    Physicians experienced in cryoablation procedures can identify who is a suitable candidate for cryoablation. The size and location of the tumor(s), the patient’s general health and the patient’s preference will all be factors in the decision.

    Cryoablation may be used to treat a range of tumor sizes and locations within the kidney. Published data provide evidence that the oncologic outcomes following cryoablation are comparable to oncologic outcomes following partial nephrectomy and are superior to outcomes following radiofrequency ablation. Cryoablation can be performed under conscious sedation with local anesthesia, providing an alternative therapy for patients at risk for use of general anesthesia. For patients who are at risk for complications of surgery, cryoablation offers an alternative with low risk of bleeding or other complications. Patients who have poor kidney function, Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome or a single kidney may also be good candidates for cryoablation.

  • How long does the procedure take?

    Although each case is different, a percutaneous kidney cryoablation procedure usually lasts approximately one hour; other cryoablation approaches will be longer.

  • How much pain is associated with cryoablation?

    Many patients experience very little pain associated with cryoablation, but some patients may have some discomfort. If appropriate, pain medicines may be given to improve patient comfort.

  • How long is the hospital stay?

    Many doctors prefer their patients to stay in the hospital for at least one night after the procedure. This allows the doctor to make sure patients are eating, drinking, walking and urinating satisfactorily before being discharged from the hospital. Of course, if there are any complications, patients may need to stay in the hospital longer, and local arrangements may vary.

  • What is the recovery time before returning to work?

    Recovery time will depend on the extent of the disease treated, the approach used, the patient’s general health and the patient’s type of work. Most patients who do not have physically demanding jobs are able to return to work within two weeks.

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Kidney Definitions

Ablation: The destruction of tissue by the application of extreme cold, heat or light (laser).

Anaesthesia: The loss of sensations and usually of consciousness artificially produced by the administration of one or more agents to block the passage of pain impulses along nerve pathways to the brain.

Benign:  Without cancer; not cancerous.

Biopsy: The removal and examination of a sample of tissue for diagnostic purposes.

Calyx / Calices: Chambers within the kidney through which collected urine passes to the renal pelvis.

Cancer: A malignant and invasive growth or tumor.

Comorbidity: The presence of one or more additional diseases or disorders occurring simultaneously with a primary disease or disorder.

Computed Tomography (CT): A non-invasive imaging procedure that uses computer processed x-rays to create a series of detailed pictures (slices) of areas inside the body.

Conscious Sedation: The technique of using medicines to create a relaxed state and to block pain during a medical procedure; intended to allow the patient to stay awake yet be comfortable during the procedure.

Cryoablation or Cryotherapy or Cryosurgery: The destruction of tissue by the application of extremely cold temperatures.

Cyst: A cluster of cells that form a sac and have a distinct surrounding membrane.

Hematuria: Presence of blood in the urine.

Image-guided Procedure: A procedure that correlates real-time images created during a procedure (e.g., CT or MRI) with preoperative images.

Kidney Cancer: Cancer that originates in the kidney.

Laparoscopic Procedure: A surgical technique in which small incisions allow performing a procedure without major incisions; a small video camera is inserted through a small incision to inspect tissue or to observe a surgical procedure; surgical tools are inserted through other small incisions to perform a procedure.

Lymph Node: Small, bean-shaped organs which filter bacteria and foreign particles and contain immune cells that fight infections and disease; lymph nodes are located throughout the body.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): A non-invasive imaging procedure that uses a powerful magnetic field, radio frequency pulses and a computer to produce detailed pictures of areas inside the body.

Metastases: New occurrences of cancer that have spread from the original cancer site to another organ or tissue not directly connected to the original site.

Minimally Invasive Procedure: A procedure that is performed through tiny incisions or needle punctures rather than a large incision; recovery time may be quicker and these procedures may produce less discomfort than conventional, open surgical procedures.

Nephron: The basic structural and functional unit of a kidney; responsible for regulating the concentration of water and soluble substances in blood by filtering blood, removing waste and excess substances to be excreted as urine.

Oncology: The branch of medicine dealing with tumors, including the diagnosis, development, and treatment of malignancies.

Oncologic: Of or relating to oncology; practicing oncology.

Partial nephrectomy: A surgical procedure to remove only the cancerous tumor or diseased portion of the kidney, leaving intact healthy kidney tissue.

Percutaneous: A medical procedure in which access to the target tissue is gained using a needle puncture through the skin, rather than using an incision into the skin.

Radiofrequency ablation: A procedure to destroy target tissue with heat using high-frequency electrical energy delivered through a needle.

Recurrent cancer: The return of cancer after treatment and after a period of time during which the cancer was not detected.

Renal cancer: Cancer that originates in the kidney.

Renal cell carcinoma: Cancer that forms in the lining of the small kidney tubes that filter blood and remove waste; approximately 90% of kidney cancer is renal cell carcinoma (RCC).

Renal pelvis carcinoma:  Cancer that forms in the center of the kidney where urine collects.

Ultrasound imaging: A non-invasive imaging procedure that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce realtime pictures of areas inside the body.

Ureter: The tube that carries urine from a kidney to the bladder.

Urethra: The tube that carries urine from the bladder to be discharged outside the body.

Urinalysis:  The microscopic, physical and chemical examination of urine to evaluate the compounds in the urine.

Urine leak: A complication of kidney surgery that results in urine leaking from the kidney’s internal collection system.

Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome: A rare, inherited disorder that predisposes individuals to form tumors and cysts in the body; the tumors may be benign or malignant.