A nephrectomy is the surgical removal of a kidney. Normally, this procedure is performed in the setting of kidney cancer or a very severe kidney infection. Fortunately, the vast majority of people were born with two kidneys, so even after a nephrectomy a patient will still have one functional kidney. what's amazing is that often one kidney is sufficient to perform all of the kidney-specific filtering needs of the body and therefore many people can live for a long time with one kidney without any problems. however, if the other kidney is also damaged, then likely it will not be able provide the functions necessary to keep a patient healthy. in this case, the patient will need to go on dialysis
which is essentially a complex system on filters and electrolyte solutions set up to perform the function of the kidneys. patients on dialysis normally will have to go to a dialysis clinic about three times a week to be put on a dialysis machine for three to four hours at a time. they are closely followed by a kidney doctor
at these centers and many are able to survive and have productive lives for many years after starting dialysis, but of course that all depends on how healthy of an individual there are to begin with. hope this helps!