Does Your Kidney Grow Back After Surgery?

Having a kidney removed due to a disease or for donation purposes can be a significant and life-altering event. Many people are curious and have questions about what happens to the kidney and the body after surgery, such as whether a kidney can grow back or what are the risks of having only one kidney. In this article, we will delve into these questions and provide informative answers to help you understand the reality of kidney removal and the recovery process.

Do Kidneys Regrow After Surgery?

The short answer is no; once a kidney is removed, it does not grow back. Unlike some organs, such as the liver, which can regenerate to some extent after surgery, kidneys do not have this capability. Fortunately, this is not an issue in most cases as a single functioning kidney is enough for the body to maintain the balance of fluids and electrolytes.

What Happens To The Body After Kidney Removal?

When a kidney is removed surgically, the body needs to adapt to the changes in its internal environment. This could take some time, with the remaining kidney and other organs, such as the liver and heart, playing a crucial role in maintaining the body’s balance. Immediately after surgery, the body might retain fluids, and this could lead to swelling, which subsides over time. The patient will likely experience some pain, which could intensify during movement or coughing. The surgeon might prescribe pain medication, which can help manage the discomfort.

Long-Term Physical Changes After Kidney Removal

After surgery, the patient will need to adjust some aspects of their lifestyle to accommodate their new circumstances. For instance, it is essential to stay hydrated by drinking enough fluids, which could include water, juice, or soups. Patients should avoid heavy lifting or strenuous exercise for up to six weeks following surgery. They will also need to get regular check-ups and monitor their blood pressure, glucose, cholesterol levels, and general kidney function. For some patients, especially those with previous kidney conditions, more frequent check-ups and special attention might be necessary.

Psychological Effects Of Kidney Removal

Having a kidney removed is a significant event that could affect the patient not only physically but also mentally. Many patients experience anxiety, depression, or other psychological issues after surgery. It is essential to seek counseling or support from family and friends to manage the psychological effects of surgery.

Can We Live With One Kidney?

The answer is yes; we can live with one functioning kidney. The kidney performs essential functions in regulating the fluid, electrolyte, and acid-base balance in our bodies. However, humans are born with two kidneys because having a spare offers some benefits. For instance, if one kidney fails or gets damaged, the other kidney kicks in to maintain the balance within the body. Nevertheless, in most cases, having one functioning kidney does not significantly affect a person’s quality of life.

When Do You Need Kidney Removal Surgery?

Doctors might recommend kidney removal surgery for several reasons, such as:

  • Kidney Cancer: cancerous tumors growing inside the kidney could prompt removal surgery
  • Kidney Damage: severe damage to one or both kidneys due to a disease, trauma, or infection could necessitate surgery
  • Donation: individuals who opt to donate a kidney to a loved one undergoing kidney failure may have one kidney removed

What Are The Risks Of Kidney Removal Surgery?

As with any surgery, kidney removal surgery entails some risks that patients or their family members should be aware of. These include:

  • Bleeding: during or after surgery, blood loss could occur, which may require a transfusion
  • Infection: wounds could get infected, which might lead to other complications
  • Reaction To Anesthesia: patients could experience allergic reactions to anesthesia, which could affect their breathing, blood pressure, or heart rate
  • Hydrothorax: fluids could accumulate in the lungs, leading to difficulty breathing
  • Chronic Pain: some patients could experience pain, which could become chronic


Having a kidney removed is a significant event that could cause some physical and psychological challenges. Although kidneys do not grow back after surgery, the body could adapt to the changes and maintain balance using one kidney, which is enough. Patients need to get adequate rest, avoid strenuous activities, and consult their medical team for regular check-ups to ensure their kidney is functioning well.

Common Questions and Their Answers

Below are some common questions related to kidney removal surgery:

  • Can you die if you have one kidney?
  • No, individuals born with one kidney or those with one kidney removed can live a healthy, normal life. However, they need to take precautions such as staying hydrated, eating healthily, and maintaining overall kidney health.

  • Can a donated kidney be removed?
  • Yes, in rare cases, donated kidneys might need to be removed due to complications or transplant failure. This could be a complex procedure that would necessitate close consultation between the patient and their medical team.

  • How long does it take to recover after kidney removal surgery?
  • Most patients take between four to six weeks of rest before resuming regular activities. However, recovery periods might vary depending on the individual’s age, health status, and other factors.

American Kidney Fund. (n.d.). Living with one kidney.
National Kidney Foundation. (2019, December 9). Recovering from Kidney Surgery.

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