What are kidney stones?
A kidney stone is a solid piece of material that forms from crystallization of excreted substances in the urine. The stone may remain in the kidney or break loose and travel down the urinary tract. A small stone may pass all of the way out of the body, but a larger stone can get stuck in a ureter, the bladder or the urethra. This may block the flow of urine and cause great pain.
A kidney stone may be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a pearl, and some are as big as golf balls. They may be smooth, irregular in shape or jagged and are usually yellow or brown in color.
What are the symptoms?
Extreme, sharp pain in the back or side that will not go away
Blood in the urine
Nausea and vomiting
Cloudy or odorous urine
A burning feeling when you urinate
Fever and chills
What treatment options are available?
Some kidney stones pass out of the body without any intervention by a doctor. In cases that cause lasting symptoms or other complications, kidney stones may be treated with various techniques, including the following:
Shock waves or extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL). This treatment uses a machine to send shock waves directly to the kidney stone to break a large stone into smaller stones that will pass through the urinary system. There are two types of shock wave machines: with one machine, the patient sits in a tub of water; with the other, the patient lies on a table.
Ureteroscope. A long wire with a camera attached to it is inserted into the patient's urethra and passed up through the bladder to the ureter where the stone is located. A cage is used to obtain the stone and remove it.
- Tunnel surgery (also called percutaneous nephrolithotomy). A small cut is made in the patient's back and a narrow tunnel is made through the skin to the stone inside the kidney. The surgeon can remove the stone through this tunnel.