Kidney surgeries: A thing of the past?

April 13, 2015

David and Ricki Pearl were meant to be together. They met as children and David proudly remembers it was love at first sight. Circumstances in life separated them for more than 30 years, but eventually they found each other again. Then, at age 70, David found out he had a growth in his kidney.

The specialist who discovered the growth told the Pearls he was certain it was cancerous, and David would need surgery right away. A biopsy would be too complicated, he said, because of the risk of seeding. Seeding is the spread of malignant cancer cells throughout the body.

The Pearls asked for a second opinion and were referred to Dr. Jaime Landman, chair of the Department of Urology at UC Irvine School of Medicine. Landman is a pioneer of a revolutionary minimally invasive ultrasound-guided technique that allows urologists to safely perform kidney biopsies with almost no risk of seeding.

Landman developed this innovative technique in collaboration with industry leaders and a team of UCI Health urologists, anesthesiologists, nurses and medical students. After thorough testing in the lab, the team began performing ultrasound-guided kidney biopsies on patients, with excellent results.

The biopsy revealed that David Pearl’s tumor was not cancerous. Like David, many of the patients who undergo these biopsies turn out to have benign tumors and do not need surgery to remove the kidney. Nationally, up to 30 percent of kidney surgeries performed are unnecessary because tumors are later revealed to be benign.

“At UCI Health, we are truly changing the way we diagnose and treat kidney cancer. No other medical center in Orange County is doing this,” Landman said. “I’m surprised we’re not doing this all over the world.”

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— Camila Hernandez, UCI Health Marketing & Communications

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