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The kidneys are two small organs located behind the abdomen, on each side of the spine. By producing urine, kidneys remove toxic by-products and excess fluids from the body, which helps maintain a critical balance of salt, potassium and acid.
A common condition affecting the kidneys is blockage of the ureters, the tubes that transport urine from the kidneys to the bladder. Blockages of the ureters can be present from birth or acquired through illness or injury, and can create serious side effects like infections and kidney stones. If left untreated, blockages can cause chronic pain and may damage the kidney over time.
Cancer, a second condition affecting the kidneys, can form in the small tubes inside the kidney, which are used for filtering blood, and in the center of the kidney where urine collects.
Non-cancerous kidney conditions involving a blockage can usually be treated by removing it; depending on the type of blockage, surgery may be used. Kidney cancer, on the other hand, is relatively resistant to radiation and chemotherapy. As a result, the standard treatment for localized kidney cancer is removal of the kidney or kidney tumors.
Kidney surgery is traditionally performed using an open approach, which requires a large abdominal incision. Another approach, conventional laparoscopy, is less invasive, but limits the doctor's dexterity, visualization and control, compared to open surgery.