Renal cell carcinoma with inferior vena cava thrombus can be a diagnostic and therapeutic challenge; however, the surgical resection of these tumors can be facilitated by appropriate preoperative imaging and planning. First and foremost, we believe that this procedure should be considered an operation on the inferior vena cava rather than on the kidney. The level and extent of the tumor thrombus dictates the surgical approach used. Although the patient should be given an appropriate explanation of the procedure and its risks, the surgeon needs to be adequately prepared and have intraoperative versatility in order to maintain the safety of this operation. In this Review, we describe our approach to surgical resection in patients who have renal cell carcinoma with inferior vena cava thrombus, and outcomes for the management of patients with this disorder.