Postsurgery Information

University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center Helps Patients Recover After Kidney Cancer Surgery

While individual reactions may vary depending on the stage and type of kidney disease and the surgical procedure used, there are a few general side effects that patients should be aware of during the recovery period. Individuals with additional questions about severe or bothersome symptoms should contact their UH Seidman Cancer Center surgeon.

First Day Following Surgery

The day following an individual's kidney cancer surgery, our surgical team will stop by the patient's room early in the morning. The team will examine the patient and check the incisions made during the procedure. Individuals are free to ask questions during this time.

The first day following surgery, UH Seidman Cancer Center staff members typically urge patients to get out of their hospital bed, sit in a chair or even walk around the hospital hallways. Although patients may not feel like getting out of bed or moving around, this activity will make them feel better. Walking helps the lungs expand, which supports a quicker recovery.

Incentive Spirometer

A patient should continue using his or her incentive spirometer at least 10 times an hour while awake. He or she will also have blood drawn early in the morning the day following the surgical procedure.


A team member from UH Seidman Cancer Center will administer antibiotics and any pain medication through the patient's intravenous catheter (IV). Patients will be able to restart some of their normal medications. Individuals should refer any questions regarding medication to their UH Seidman Cancer Center nurse or a member of the Urologic Oncology Center team.

Dietary Information

Patients who are not feeling nauseated following the procedure can take sips of clear liquids. Once a patient is tolerating liquids, UH Seidman Cancer Center team will advance his or her diet to include more solid food. It is quite normal for patients to not have an appetite or for food to have a strange taste the day after surgery.

The patient’s family is welcome to visit throughout the day.

Going Home

Patients may leave the hospital and return home once their pain is controlled exclusively by oral medication, their laboratory tests and vital signs are stable and they are eating a solid food diet. Most individuals are ready to go home two or three days after surgery. However, each patient is different and should go home only when he or she feels ready.

In general, no heavy lifting or strenuous activity is allowed during the first few weeks after surgery. Patients will be given a follow-up appointment with a surgeon from UH Seidman Cancer Center and the Urologic Oncology Center approximately one month after their surgery.

Following discharge from the hospital, a patient’s regular diet can resume as well as the medication schedule he or she followed prior to surgery.

The patient will additionally be asked to:

  • Follow instructions regarding when to resume taking blood-thinning medication.
  • Take pain medication prescribed at discharge. An over-the-counter stool softener should be taken by mouth twice daily to help alleviate the constipating effect of most pain medications.
  • Try to drink several glasses of water/liquid a day.

Activity Level

UH Seidman Cancer Center physicians encourage patients to walk following surgery because this can be extremely beneficial to the healing process. Other activities patients need to consider include:

  • Walking and stair climbing as is tolerable
  • Showering 48 hours following surgery
  • No driving or lifting objects over five pounds until the postoperative appointment

Skin Care

  • Patients may have port sites, or small incisions where the surgery was performed, that are covered by Steri-Strips™ or a larger incision with staples that will be removed at the postoperative visit. Steri-Strips™ are small pieces of surgical tape that may be removed as early as 48 hours after surgery or they may stay in place until the patient's follow-up appointment.
  • Once the patient's dressings are removed, it is not uncommon to have a very small amount of drainage from where the individual's dressings were located.
  • Patients may be discharged with a drain (small plastic tube) in place. Individuals will be given separate instructions regarding emptying, recording the amount of drainage and caring for the surgical drain.

Foley Catheter

During kidney cancer surgery, many patients have a Foley catheter placed in their bladder. A catheter is a tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body, into a bag. The device remains in place until the amount of healing is sufficient enough for its removal, usually during the first day following surgery.

Occasionally, patients will require the use of a catheter for several days even after they have returned home. At home, the catheter should drain into a larger bag. If the individual leaves his or her home, he or she can wear a smaller bag under the pant leg. The patient should follow the instructions provided by a UH Seidman Cancer Center team member regarding the care of the catheter.

It is completely normal for patients to experience some urine leakage around the tube. Blood in the urine is also a common occurrence.

Problems that Patients May Experience at Home

  • Bruising around the incision sites: This is not uncommon and will improve over time.
  • Bloody drainage around the Foley catheter or in the urine: This is especially common after increasing physical activity or following a bowel movement. While this can be alarming, resting for a short period of time should improve the situation. Patients should call their UH Seidman Cancer Center surgeon if they see clots in the urine or if they have no urine output for one to two hours.
  • Abdominal distention, constipation or bloating: Patients should make sure that they are taking a stool softener as directed. If they do not have a bowel movement within 24 hours after surgery, they should drink fluids and try taking milk of magnesia as directed on the bottle. If after three doses of milk of magnesia patients still have no bowel movement, patients should call their physician's office.
  • Fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, bleeding and increased pain: These symptoms should not be ignored. Patients should contact the Urologic Oncology Center immediately should any of these problems arise:
    • A temperature over 102° F
    • Urine stops draining from the patient’s catheter into the drainage bag
    • Any pain so excruciating that medication is not helping to relieve it
    • Large amount of blood clots in urine
    • Bladder spasms that are not relieved with pain medication

The Follow-Up Visit

  • A patient will have a follow-up appointment scheduled about seven to 10 days following discharge.
  • Patients can eat, drink and take medications prior to the follow-up appointment.

Patients that need emergency assistance should call 9-1-1.

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