If you have kidney stones, you have a lot of company. Nearly 10 percent of the population suffers from this condition. Kidney stones are mostly created from calcium, but they can also develop from uric acid or from struvite (magnesium ammonium phosphate) crystals related to bacterial infections in the urinary tract. Kidney stones do not cure themselves, and when left untreated, they can be very painful and even contribute to kidney damage.
Three Main Surgery Treatments for Kidney Stone Removal
- Shock Wave Lithotripsy (SWL)
This non-invasive, outpatient procedure does not require any incisions and uses intensive sound waves to shatter small to medium sized stones which allows the small particles to pass out of the kidney during normal urine elimination. The patient is given a general anesthesia, has minimal discomfort afterwards, and can return home after a few hours.
- Ureteroscopy and Laser Lithotripsy
This non-invasive procedure does not require any incisions and is performed on an outpatient basis for small to medium sized stones. The surgeon inserts a thin scope into the urethra, then through the bladder and ureter, to reach the stone’s location. If the stone is lodged in the ureter, the surgeon pushes it back into the kidney where it’s shattered by a laser lithotripsy. This allows the dust like particles to pass out of the kidney with normal urine elimination. The patient is given a general anesthesia, has minimal discomfort, and goes home after a few hours.
- Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy (PCNL)
PCNL is safe and effective, performed in a hospital, and generally requires an overnight stay. The procedure targets non-passable large stones or a collection of smaller stones concentrated in one kidney. The patient is given a general anesthesia. A small incision is made in the back to allow direct access to the kidney’s drainage system. Specialized surgical equipment is used to shatter the stones. The smaller pieces are vacuumed or picked out of the kidney. A temporary tube or stent is left in place while the kidney drains and it’s easily removed later in the surgeon’s office.