Because living donor kidneys are so valuable, UW Health transplant surgeon Josh Mezrich, MD, has been working to make the process as easy and safe as possible for donors. 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-centimeter 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 procedure,” says Dr. Mezrich. “The belly button nephrectomy may not be the best choice for very 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.
University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority