Sometimes, a loss of appetite and body weight after kidney surgery results from undergoing the surgery itself. For example, a person may feel nauseous after surgery or need additional calories as the body is healing.

A person must try to eat a range of healthy foods after a nephrectomy, which refers to the procedure to remove a kidney.

Post-operative nausea is common after any operation with an anesthetic. However, it is treatable, so if someone feels nauseous after surgery and their appetite is affected, they must tell their doctor.

Read on to learn more about weight loss after kidney removal.

a tape measure is looped around a pair of blue jeansShare on Pinterest
Colour Laboratory/Stocksy United

The reasons for someone losing weight after kidney surgery are highly individual.

However, usually one of the following factors may contribute in some way.

Moving less

After kidney surgery, a person may not be able to move as much as they used to. In fact, it may take up to 4 weeks until an individual gets back to their usual levels of activity.

However, they may not be able to swim, jog, or lift anything heavy for up to 6 weeks. They may lose muscle mass for this reason.

Need for additional nutrients

After surgery, the body needs energy and nutrients for healing. So, there may be less energy and fewer nutrients for maintaining body weight if a person continues to consume the amount they were eating before surgery.

Nausea from anaesthetic

Postoperative nausea is common after someone has received anesthesia after an operation. Not only can this affect a person’s appetite, but it can also cause low blood pressure and low blood oxygen levels.

Recurrence of cancer

If someone had a kidney removed because of renal cell carcinoma (RCC), weight loss could be a sign of cancer returning. For this reason, weight loss after kidney surgery for RCC can be a risk factor for recurrence.

A person needs to contact their doctor if they keep losing weight for any reason.

If someone has undergone kidney removal due to RCC, they need to speak with a doctor urgently if they are unexpectedly losing weight after surgery.

To help prevent a loss of appetite and consequently weight loss after kidney surgery, a person needs to follow instructions from their doctor, who may provide them with dietary tips.

These tips could include the following:

  • eat regular meals three or more times a day
  • eat a balanced, nutritious diet, including fruit and vegetables
  • consume plenty of liquids

If someone is experiencing unintentional weight loss after kidney surgery, they can take several actions. They can consult a doctor about a loss of appetite or their inability to keep weight on. They can also consider making a habit of eating meals at set times per day.

Here are answers to common questions about kidney removal surgery.

Why am I gaining weight after kidney removal?

People can gain weight for several reasons after a kidney removal or any major abdominal surgery.

Researchers partly attribute this to an increase in fluid retention. However, if someone consumes the same number of calories they did before surgery, they could gain weight if they are not moving while recovering.

What are the long-term side effects of having a kidney removed?

When someone undergoes kidney removal surgery, they may have problems with their blood pressure afterward.

A 2023 study recorded this effect in people with RCC who had no history of high blood pressure before their kidney removal or kidney tumor removal.

How long does it take to recover fully from kidney removal?

After kidney surgery, a person may be able to return to work within 2 to 4 weeks of surgery. However, if their work involves heavy lifting, they may have to wait 6 weeks, though this time frame can vary.

People need to try to take part in physical activity that their doctor recommends from the first day after surgery. A person’s healthcare team will help create a tailored post-operative treatment plan.

Weight loss after kidney removal can occur for several reasons, including a loss of appetite and a need for additional nutrients. Some people may also experience nausea from being under general anesthetic, which can also affect how much they eat after surgery.

If a person has concerns about weight loss after surgery, they need to consult a doctor urgently.