Caring For Kidney Stones

Shock waves, fiber optic telescopes, and lasers are among the high-tech tools we use in minimally-invasive surgery to break stones down to a size that can be easily passed.

Kidney stones have troubled mankind for about as long as we’ve had kidneys. Scientists have even found evidence of kidney stones in a 7,000-year-old Egyptian mummy. Today, kidney stones are one of the most common disorders of the urinary tract and, for reasons not yet known, the number of people in the United States with the condition has been increasing over the past 30 years. About 5 percent of the population forms kidney stones, and each year they send 3 million people to their doctors and another half a million to the emergency room.

The most common type of kidney stone in the U.S. is a calcium-based stone that develops from crystals that separate out from the urine within the urinary tract. Normally, urine contains chemicals that prevent crystals from forming, but these chemicals don’t work adequately for everyone. Another type of stone is caused by infection in the urinary tract.

Kidney stones can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a baseball. The tiniest ones will travel through the urinary tract and pass out of the body without any symptoms. Unfortunately, the first sign of a kidney stone that’s too large to pass easily is the sudden onset of extreme pain. Typically, a person feels a sharp, cramping pain in the back and side in the area of the kidney or in the lower abdomen. Sometimes nausea and vomiting occur, pain may spread to the groin, and blood may appear in the urine.

Getting past the pain

Small kidney stones can pass with the aid of medication and a tincture of time. The patient remains at home during the process, drinking fluids and taking pain medication as needed. But sometimes surgical intervention is required. Twenty-five years ago, open surgery (with a recovery time of 4 to 6 weeks) was necessary to remove a stone that was too large to pass on its own or was caught in a difficult place in the urinary tract.

Your current treatment options are much better. At Premier Medical Group, we specialize in minimally-invasive surgery. We use the latest fiber optic telescopes and lasers for the removal of kidney stones. Most surgeries can be performed on an outpatient basis, or with a onenight hospital stay and a short recuperation.

High-tech treatments

The procedure most frequently employed is shock wave lithotripsy (SWL), in which shock waves from outside the body break stones down into small particles that are easily passed. At Premier, we use the newest generation of lithotripter, which requires less anesthesia and makes the procedure easier on the patient.

Size, type, location, and disposition of the kidney stone are considered when determining the best kind of treatment for a patient. When indicated, we use other high-tech approaches, including the Holmium Laser, Lithoclast Pneumatic Impactor and Percutaneous Stone Extraction.

A person who has developed a kidney stone is likely to develop another. Once the stone has been removed, the focus turns to prevention. We have the stone analyzed and give you a comprehensive metabolic evaluation to determine what’s behind your stone formation. Treatment plans generally incorporate dietary changes and medications to control the acid, alkali, or calcium in the urine.