Partial Nephrectomy Versus Radical Nephrectomy for Clinical T1b and T2 Renal Tumors: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Comparative Studies

Eur Urol. 2017 Apr;71(4):606-617. doi: 10.1016/j.eururo.2016.08.060. Epub 2016 Sep 7.


Background: Partial nephrectomy (PN) is the reference standard of management for a cT1a renal mass. However, its role in the management of larger tumors (cT1b and cT2) is still under scrutiny.

Objective: To conduct a meta-analysis assessing functional, oncologic, and perioperative outcomes of PN and radical nephrectomy (RN) in the specific case of larger renal tumors (≥cT1b). The primary endpoint was an overall analysis of cT1b and cT2 masses. The secondary endpoint was a sensitivity analysis for cT2 only.

Evidence acquisition: A systematic literature review was performed up to December 2015 using multiple search engines to identify eligible comparative studies. A formal meta-analysis was performed for studies comparing PN to RN for both cT1b and cT2 tumors. In addition, a sensitivity analysis including the subgroup of studies comparing PN to RN for cT2 only was conducted. Pooled estimates were calculated using a fixed-effects model if no significant heterogeneity was identified; alternatively, a random-effects model was used when significant heterogeneity was detected. For continuous outcomes, the weighted mean difference (WMD) was used as summary measure. For binary variables, the odds ratio (OR) or risk ratio (RR) was calculated with 95% confidence interval (CI). Statistical analyses were performed using Review Manager 5 (Cochrane Collaboration, Oxford, UK).

Evidence synthesis: Overall, 21 case-control studies including 11204 patients (RN 8620; PN 2584) were deemed eligible and included in the analysis. Patients undergoing PN were younger (WMD -2.3 yr; p<0.001) and had smaller masses (WMD -0.65cm; p<0.001). Lower estimated blood loss was found for RN (WMD 102.6ml; p<0.001). There was a higher likelihood of postoperative complications for PN (RR 1.74, 95% CI 1.34-2.2; p<0.001). Pathology revealed a higher rate of malignant histology for the RN group (RR 0.97; p=0.02). PN was associated with better postoperative renal function, as shown by higher postoperative estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR; WMD 12.4ml/min; p<0.001), lower likelihood of postoperative onset of chronic kidney disease (RR 0.36; p<0.001), and lower decline in eGFR (WMD -8.6ml/min; p<0.001). The PN group had a lower likelihood of tumor recurrence (OR 0.6; p<0.001), cancer-specific mortality (OR 0.58; p=0.001), and all-cause mortality (OR 0.67; p=0.005). Four studies compared PN (n=212) to RN (n=1792) in the specific case of T2 tumors (>7cm). In this subset of patients, the estimated blood loss was higher for PN (WMD 107.6ml; p<0.001), as was the likelihood of complications (RR 2.0; p<0.001). Both the recurrence rate (RR 0.61; p=0.004) and cancer-specific mortality (RR 0.65; p=0.03) were lower for PN.

Conclusions: PN is a viable treatment option for larger renal tumors, as it offers acceptable surgical morbidity, equivalent cancer control, and better preservation of renal function, with potential for better long-term survival. For T2 tumors, PN use should be more selective, and specific patient and tumor factors should be considered. Further investigation, ideally in a prospective randomized fashion, is warranted to better define the role of PN in this challenging clinical scenario.

Patient summary: We performed a cumulative analysis of the literature to determine the best treatment option in cases of localized kidney tumor of higher clinical stage (T1b and T2, as based on preoperative imaging). Our findings suggest that removing only the tumor and saving the kidney might be an effective treatment modality in terms of cancer control, with the advantage of preserving the kidney function. However, a higher risk of perioperative complications should be taken into account when facing larger tumors (clinical stage T2) with kidney-sparing surgery.

Keywords: Kidney cancer; Partial nephrectomy; Radical nephrectomy; Renal function; Renal mass; Renal neoplasm.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood Loss, Surgical
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / mortality
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / surgery*
  • Glomerular Filtration Rate
  • Humans
  • Kidney Neoplasms / mortality
  • Kidney Neoplasms / pathology
  • Kidney Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / epidemiology
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Nephrectomy / methods*
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology*
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / epidemiology*
  • Treatment Outcome