Lymphatic drainage in renal cell carcinoma (RCC) is unpredictable, however, basic patterns can be observed in cadaveric and sentinel lymph node mapping studies in patients with RCC. The existence of peripheral lymphovenous communications at the level of the renal vein has been shown in mammals but remains unknown in humans. The sentinel lymph node biopsy technique can be safely applied to map lymphatic drainage patterns in patients with RCC. Further standardisation of sentinel node biopsy techniques is required to improve the clinical significance of mapping studies. Understanding lymphatic drainage in RCC may lead to an evidence-based consensus on the surgical management of retroperitoneal lymph nodes.