Hand-assisted laparoscopic nephrectomy: Prospective evaluation of the learning curve

Kris E. Gaston, Dominic T. Moore, Raj S. Pruthi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Purpose: Laparoscopic nephrectomy (LN) has recently become an emerging standard for extirpative surgery of the kidney. LN has historically proven to have a steep learning curve with longer operative times until a surgeon gains adequate laparoscopic experience. Hand-assisted laparoscopic nephrectomy (HALN) is fast becoming a commonly used procedure to remove kidneys as it may have a reduced learning curve compared to standard LN. To date no prospective studies have evaluated the learning curve of HALN with regard to improvements in operative times and technical difficulty. We prospectively evaluated the learning curve for HALN in a residency training program as it compares to open nephrectomy. Materials and Methods: HALN was performed in 30 consecutive patients for various indications. The senior urology resident functioned as the primary surgeon and the same attending surgeon was present throughout all cases. All participating residents had to have performed at least 15 open nephrectomies to serve as an internal, personal reference. Difficulty scores were obtained at the completion of the case from the resident surgeon comparing HALN to open nephrectomy, which ranged from 1 to 5. Operative times, estimated blood losses and lengths of stay were obtained at the time of surgery and hospitalization. Results: Median difficulty score was equivalent to open nephrectomy for the first case but decreased significantly by case 4 (p = 0.0006). Median operative times decreased significantly from 178 minutes in the first cases to 85 minutes by case 6 (p = 0.0002). Estimated blood loss and length of hospitalization did not differ significantly. Conclusions: HALN has a relatively short learning curve reflected by the rapid decrease in difficulty scores and operative times by case 4. Similar results may be expected when training practicing urologists to perform HALN.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-67
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Urology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Education
  • Kidney neoplasms
  • Laparoscopy
  • Nephrectomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Urology


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