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Year : 2007  |  Volume : 23  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 27-28

Nephron sparing surgery: Is here to stay

Department of Urology, Christian Medical College, Vellore - 632004, India

Correspondence Address:
Ganesh Gopalakrishnan
Department of Urology, Christian Medical College, Vellore - 632004
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0970-1591.30261

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How to cite this article:
Gopalakrishnan G. Nephron sparing surgery: Is here to stay. Indian J Urol 2007;23:27-8

How to cite this URL:
Gopalakrishnan G. Nephron sparing surgery: Is here to stay. Indian J Urol [serial online] 2007 [cited 2023 Mar 25];23:27-8. Available from:

While radical nephrectomy is still the gold standard of treatment for renal cell carcinoma, its role is now being seriously challenged. As one surveys world literature, it has become evident that numerous articles have shown the long-term safety both surgically and oncologically of nephron sparing surgery (NSS).

What does one mean by the term "Nephron Sparing Surgery". Loosely it could be used to include any surgical procedure that preserves nephrons. This includes a whole list of procedures for both benign and congenital anomalies.

I believe we need to restrict the use of the term NSS for the treatment of renal cell carcinoma when conventionally we have all been doing a radical nephrectomy. For example, removal of a non-functioning duplex moiety should not be classified as NSS.

There are two articles in this issue of the journal that report single center experience of NSS.[1] In one of them the strict definition as I had stated has not been followed. While the place of NSS is now established, as urologists we need to remember two issues. First, is a commitment to ensure adequate and accurate surveillance of these patients and secondly if adequate follow-up cannot be guaranteed, a problem in our country, then elective NSS is better not performed especially in the over 60 years age group.

Additionally in our country, when treatment and follow-up costs are invariably borne by the patient, it might seem prudent to offer a radical nephrectomy for the "elective NSS" at least in the older population. In our enthusiasm to perform NSS we should also be focused on local patient demographics.

Certainly in the younger patient NSS is a strong option. One cannot predict in the absence of a strong family history if a younger person will develop hypertension and/or diabetes in later life. We need to remember that soon the Indian subcontinent will have the largest number of diabetes in the world (International Diabetes Federation Report).[2] At this time a maximal amount of nephron mass is important to reduce the effects of target organ damage.

The oncological safety of NSS for a < 4 cms renal neoplasm is now fairly well established in the category of elective NSS.[3],[4],[5],[6] The five-year cancer specific survival of a 97.8% for tumor < 4 cm treated by partial nephrectomy compares with a similar survival when treated with radical nephrectomy. The articles in this issue have addressed this modality of treatment with good short-term outcome. I believe we need longer follow-up. The controversy is the role of NSS for tumors between 4-7 cm. These articles do not address this issue. Literature while suggesting the successful use of partial nephrectomy for such lesions, is limited by small numbers and short term follow-up.[7] In the subgroup univariate and multivariate analysis, the most important predictor of outcome was tumor size. In my opinion, measurement of tumor size by imaging or at surgery and by the pathologist on the specimen are quite in variance with one another and could make a difference at the upper end of the spectrum. Similarly some large tumors could also be undersized. Unfortunately these corrections are not taken into our analysis.

At this time, I believe that we need to remember the facts while offering treatment for patients with renal cell carcinoma. Radical nephrectomy is still the gold standard. For a 4 cm tumor elective partial nephrectomy matches currently the survival figures for radical nephrectomy.[3] In the younger patient this would make sense as the genetic risk of another lesion in this or the opposite kidney is a serious threat. In the older patient it probably does not make a difference. For the large tumor (4-7 cm), I believe the jury is still out and we need to exercise great caution while offering NSS to this group on an elective basis.

   References Top

1.Agrawal S, Jha MS, Khurana N, Ansari MS, Dubey D, Srivastava A, et al. Nephron sparing surgery: A single institution experience. Indian J Urol 2007;23:23-8.   Back to cited text no. 1    
2.Mohan V, Deepa M, Deepa R, Shanthirani CS, Farooq S, Ganesan A, et al . Secular trends in the prevalence of diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance in urban South India - the Chennai Urban Rural Epidemiology Study (CURES-17). Diabetologia 2006;49:1175-8.   Back to cited text no. 2    
3.Hafez KS, Fegany AF, Novick AC. Nephron sparing surgery for localized renal cell carcinoma: Impact of tumor size on patient survival, tumor recurrence and TNM's taging. J Urol 1999;162:1930-3.  Back to cited text no. 3    
4.Herr HW. Partial nephrectomy for unilateral renal carcinoma and a normal contralateral kidney: 10 year followup. J Urol 1999;161:33-5.   Back to cited text no. 4    
5.Steinbach F, Stockle M, Muller SC, Thuroff JW, Melchior SW, Stein R, et al . Conservative surgery of renal tumour in hospital: 21 years of experience. J Urol 1992;148:24-30.  Back to cited text no. 5    
6.Rabets J, Novick AC. Evidence based comparison of nephron sparing treatment options for renal cell carcinoma. AUA update Series 2006;25.  Back to cited text no. 6    
7.Patard JJ, Shvarts O, Lam JS, Pantuck AJ, Kim HL, Ficarra V, et al . Safety and efficacy of partial nephrectomy for all T1 tumours based on an international multicenter experience. J Urol 2004;171:2181-5.  Back to cited text no. 7    

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