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
- Frequent urination
- 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.