Robotic Assisted Partial Nephrectomy (RAPN)

A “robotic assisted partial nephrectomy” (RAPN) is a minimally invasive surgical procedure performed to treat renal masses which are suspected or confirmed to be kidney cancer. The aim of this operation is to remove only the tumour and leave the remainder of the normal kidney intact. This is particularly indicated in those who have:

  • Risk factors for long-term kidney damage (high blood pressure, diabetes)
  • Single kidney
  • Small tumours, making taking out the whole kidney “overtreatment”
  • Risk of formation of more kidney tumours (genetic predisposition)
  • Tumours in both kidneys (bilateral)

The operation is performed using “keyholes” and using the latest da Vinci® Xi robotic surgical system.

The benefits of the robotic approach include:

  • Less pain
  • Less blood loss
  • Shorter length of stay (1-3 days)
  • Small tumours, making taking out the whole kidney “overtreatment”
  • Faster recovery to normal activities (1-2 weeks)
  • Faster return to work (2-6 weeks depending on occupation) Open vs Robotic incisions
  • Better dexterity for suturing resulting in lower warm ischaemia time (time the kidney’s blood supply is clamped during the procedure)


Once the anaesthetic is delivered the patient, asleep, is placed on the operating table and prepped. A catheter is placed into the bladder. “Keyhole” incisions are made in a line around the level of the belly button, to allow insertion of hollow tubes (cannulas) into the abdomen. Gas is then pumped into the abdomen to obtain a good view around the kidney. The robot arms are then “docked” (attached) to these cannulas and instruments which will be used to perform the procedure are inserted. The surgeon then controls the instruments remotely (via the “surgical console”) to complete the operation. A surgical assistant and scrub nurse assist at the bedside with changing instruments and inserting/removing sutures.

The blood vessels supplying the kidney are identified and the tumour is exposed and marked for incision. The artery supplying the kidney is then clamped for a short period (15-30min) to allow for excision of the tumour and suturing the defect to ensure no bleeding. The tumour is then removed via one of the keyhole incisions and the wounds are closed with absorbable sutures. The tumour is sent to the laboratory to be analysed by a specialist pathologist. The patient generally wakes up soon after the procedure in recovery, and if stable goes to the intensive care or surgical ward.


  • Appointment with clinical nurse specialist – you will have a 1-hour appointment with our practice nurse to discuss in detail your upcoming surgery, pre-operative investigations (blood and urine tests, ECG), admission instructions, what to expect following the operation as well as address any of your concerns.
  • Blood thinners – these include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), warfarin, rivaroxaban (Xarelto), apixaban (Eliquis), dabigatran (Pradaxa) and need to be stopped 2-10 days prior to your surgery. Your doctor will advise you further about this.
  • Other regular medications – you can take all of these, up to and including the day of your surgery, unless otherwise instructed by your doctor.
  • Fasting and admission – the hospital will call you the day prior to give you fasting instructions and when/where to come into hospital (Click Here ) for contact details in the event you do not receive this call)


  • A urinary catheter. This is usually removed first day post-operatively.
  • A drain tube coming out of the abdomen connected to a collection bag (this is used to monitor for bleeding and urine leak and is usually removed the next day after the catheter)
  • Abdominal pain especially with moving/coughing. You will have some regular pain relief charted, but if needed please ask the nurse looking after you for extra pain killers. You may have a PCA (patient controlled analgesia) for 24 hours, which is essentially a button you press when you need some pain relief. The aim is not to be pain free but to reduce pain levels in order to ensure you pain is under control so that you are able to take deep breaths and cough.
  • Gas under the skin (like bubble wrap) and bloating – this normal and should resolve within a few days
  • Shoulder tip pain is common and as a result of gas irritating the diaphragm
  • You will be allowed to have fluids as soon as you are alert after your operation and in most cases be able to eat food the day after
  • Nausea is common for the first 24 hours after anaesthetic and treated with anti-nausea medications if required.
  • Your bowels may be sluggish and not open for a few days, but as long as you are tolerating oral intake and passing wind, there is no need to be concerned.

The aim before discharge is for you to be able to:

  • Tolerate a normal diet without nausea
  • Pass wind through the back passage
  • Pain be under control with tablets
  • Be able to transfer in and out of bed and walk around


  • A follow-up appointment for you to see your doctor (in 2-3 weeks)
  • Pain should decrease day by day and need for pain killers should also reduce
  • Bowels should start working as normal (see below about diet)
  • Wound care – you will have waterproof (ie. shower as normal) dressings and steri-strips over your wounds. These can be removed and checked around 1 week after surgery. The sutures are all absorbable and do not need to be removed.


  • Drink plenty of fluids (8-10 glasses or 2-3 litres)
  • Ensure adequate nutrition to improve healing. You may need to have 6 smaller meals rather than 3 larger ones.
  • Eat a diet high in fibre to prevent constipation and the need for straining when using your bowels
  • Take laxatives (eg. coloxyl and lactulose) as directed


  • You can do gentle exercise such as walking less than 1.5km
  • Avoid strenuous activity, heavy lifting (>3kg) or engage in sports (eg. golf) for 6 weeks to prevent wound complications such as hernias
  • Avoid driving a car until you have no pain and not on any pain killers (about 2 weeks)
  • Returning to work depends on the physical demands of your duties. You may be able to return to low physical activity jobs (eg. office work) within 3-4 weeks. You may need 6-12 weeks off jobs involving heavy manual work.
  • Avoid overseas travel for 6 weeks (inform your Doctor if you have a trip planned)


  • You can resume your usual medications
  • If your blood thinning medication was stopped, your Doctor will let you know when to recommence
  • You can take 1-2 paracetamol every 4-6 hours for pain and discomfort (no more than 8 in a day)
  • Stronger pain medications may also have been prescribed and should be taken as directed. Their use should decrease every day, as taking them in the long term will often cause side effects such as constipation.



  • Bleeding – requiring blood transfusion or repeat surgery
  • Ileus – slowing of bowels causing vomiting and constipation
  • Urine infection
  • Wound infection


  • Cancer cells discovered at margin of excised tumour – usually managed with observation or may require further treatment (eg. removal of kidney)
  • Urine leak – usually managed with prolonged period with drain, catheter or insertion of a ureteric stent
  • Conversion to open procedure (bigger incision)
  • Conversion to nephrectomy (removal of whole kidney)
  • Anaesthetic, cardiovascular or perioperative problems possibly requiring intensive care admission (including chest infection, pulmonary embolus – blood clot in lungs, deep vein thrombosis – blood clot in leg, stroke, heart attack and death)
  • Hernia involving any of the wounds requiring further treatment
  • Injury to other organs (eg. bowel, liver, spleen, pancreas, lung) during surgery

NOTIFY GEELONG UROLOGY or your GP if you experience any of the following:

  • Increased pain, redness or purulent discharge from any of the wounds
  • Increased discomfort, severe abdominal/flank pain or bloating
  • Vomiting
  • Worsening burning when passing urine
  • Fever (temperature over 37.5 degrees), chills, shakes or feeling generally unwell


You should have an appointment to see your doctor in 2-3 weeks. If this appointment time is not given to you on discharge from hospital, please phone Geelong Urology.

If you have any queries please contact Geelong Urology on 03 522 99105 during business hours OR leave a message on the After Hours Urology Paging Service 03 9387 1000