Belly Button Nephrectomy Earns Patient Raves
Given a choice, transplant surgeons prefer a kidney from a living donor to that of a deceased donor. The median survival rate for living donor kidneys is 18 to 20 years, whereas the median survival rate for deceased donor kidneys is only eight to 10 years.
Because living donor kidneys are so valuable, UW Health transplant surgeon and assistant professor at University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Josh Mezrich, MD, has been working to make the donation process as easy and safe as possible for donors. More than one year ago, he began performing single-port nephrectomies through the belly button.
"The main benefit of the surgery is cosmetic," says Dr. Mezrich. "We make a 4 to 6 inch incision straight through the middle of the belly button, unfold it and put a port behind it. We insert all our instruments through the port and pull the kidney out. Recovery time is similar to a laparoscopic procedure, but there is little to no scarring."
Dr. Mezrich read about the procedure after Rolf Barth, MD, performed it at University of Maryland. The two doctors had first met when Dr. Barth completed his fellowship at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Mezrich learned the technique and brought it to Madison with the support of Dixon Kaufman, MD, chair of the division of transplantation.
"Anyone can undergo the procedure, but I think it is easier to do it on women than men because women have less intra-abdominal fat, which can get in the way of the surgery," says Dr. Mezrich. "The belly button nephrectomy may not be the best choice for morbidly obese people."
Patients have been happy with the results. "At six months, it can be hard to tell they've even had surgery," says Dr. Mezrich.