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The laparoscopic nephrectomy learning curve: a single centre’s development of a de novo practice
  1. J Phillips1,
  2. J W F Catto1,
  3. V Lavin1,
  4. D Doyle2,
  5. D J Smith1,
  6. K J Hastie1,
  7. N E Oakley1
  1. 1Department of Urological Surgery, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield, UK
  2. 2Department of Anaesthetics, Royal Hallamshire Hospital
  1. Correspondence to:
 MrJ T Phillips
 Department of Urological Surgery, Room K130, K Floor, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Glossop Road, Sheffield S10 2JF, UK;


Objective: There has been a dramatic increase in the interest and practice of laparoscopic urology, with nephrectomy having become the commonest laparoscopic urological procedure. Compared with open nephrectomy, it results in reduced morbidity and shorter convalescence times while maintaining oncological safety. However, while these results predominately stem from institutions with well developed laparoscopic programmes, little is known about the results in centres that have newly adopted this technique. The introduction of a laparoscopic urological service at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital provided an opportunity to study these factors.

Methods: Since the appointment in October 2000 of a urological surgeon (N Oakley) to develop the laparoscopic service, there have been over 200 laparoscopic procedures including 121 nephrectomies performed at this centre. Full details were collected for each of these cases, and in addition, compared with retrospective data for 50 open nephrectomies performed during the same time period.

Results: With increased operator experience the median operative duration, complication, transfusion, and conversion rates significantly improved. While a learning curve was evident, the overall operative complication (9%) and conversion rates (6%) were low, in addition to patient morbidity (16.5%) and mortality (0%) rates, showing that this learning curve had no deleterious effects upon patient care. The median hospital stay was four days, which reduced to three with experience and was significantly shorter than for open nephrectomy at this institution (p = 0.001).

Conclusions: The development of a successful laparoscopic programme can be achieved with a comparatively short learning curve and without detriment to the patient provided the necessary steps are observed.

  • RCC, renal cell carcinoma
  • TCC, transitional cell carcinoma
  • laparoscopy
  • nephrectomy
  • learning curve

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  • Funding: NEO received a British Association of Urological Surgeons Section of Endourology travelling fellowship to Washington University, St Louis and the Cleveland clinic in 2000, and a British Urological Foundation fellowship to the Cleveland clinic in 2003.

  • Conflicts of interest: none.

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