Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are small, hard deposits that form inside your kidneys. The stones are made of mineral and acid salts. Kidney stones have many causes and can affect any part of your urinary tract — from your kidneys to your bladder. Often, stones form when the urine becomes concentrated, allowing minerals to crystallize and stick together.

Passing kidney stones can be quite painful, but the stones usually cause no permanent damage. Depending on your situation, you may need nothing more than to take pain medication and drink lots of water to pass a kidney stone. In other instances, surgery may be needed. We recommend preventive treatment to reduce your risk of recurrent kidney stones.

Kidney Stones Screening

A patient with pain consistent with a kidney stone, or any of the other symptoms listed above will be imaged to determine if a kidney stone is present, where it is located, and how large it is. Several different diagnostic imaging techniques are available to accomplish these goals:

  • X-ray imaging is able to see calcium that is in the majority of stones.

  • Ultrasound is an easy to use and relatively inexpensive technology that can detect the swelling of the kidney caused when a stone obstructs flow of urine.

  • A CT scan without contrast is the gold-standard (best) diagnostic test for detecting kidney stones.

  • In addition to imaging, your doctor may order several other tests to check your kidney function and determine the cause of your stone. These include:

  • Blood tests can suggest if you have an infection due to your stone, check how well your kidneys are clearing waste from your body, and if you have high levels of salts that could cause stones (like calcium)

  • Urine tests (urinalysis) can reveal the presence of proteins, red blood cells or bacteria as either a consequence of a stone or a cause of your pain.

  • You may be asked to urinate through a mesh screen device in order to catch your stone when it is passed so that your doctor can evaluate the stone at a later time.

If you feel that you may have kidney stones – or are at risk of a recurring stone – contact our office today for a confidential consultation.

Ureteroscopy and Laser Lithotripsy

Ureteroscopy is a procedure to address kidney stones, and involves the passage of a small telescope, called a ureteroscope, through the urethra and bladder and up the ureter to the point where the stone is located. Ureteroscopy is typically performed under general anesthesia, and the procedure usually lasts from one to three hours.

If the stone is small, it may be snared with a basket device and removed whole from the ureter. If the stone is large, or if the diameter of the ureter is narrow, the stone will need to be fragmented, which is usually accomplished with a laser. Once the stone is broken into tiny pieces, these pieces are removed.

The passage of the ureteroscope may result in swelling in the ureter. Therefore, it may be necessary to temporarily leave a small tube, called a ureteral stent, inside the ureter temporarily to ensure that the kidney drains urine well.

Ureteroscopy usually can be performed as an outpatient procedure, however; patients may require an overnight hospital stay if the procedure proves lengthy or difficult.


What is shock wave lithotripsy?

Shock wave lithotripsy is a common treatment for kidney stones. Providers sometimes call this procedure extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL).

Shock wave lithotripsy uses high-energy shock (pressure) waves to break up stones. Tiny pieces of kidney stones can then move through the urinary tract more easily.

Shock wave lithotripsy may help reduce your symptoms (such as pain) and allow you to pass the kidney stones on your own. It may help you avoid more invasive surgery to remove kidney stones.

When is shock wave lithotripsy needed?

Shock wave lithotripsy usually works best to treat smaller stones inside the kidney or upper part of the ureter (urine tube). Your provider will consider a stone’s size, your medical problems (including medications) and your body structure before deciding what’s best for you.

Providers often use shock wave lithotripsy to treat kidney stones that:

  • Are too large to pass on their own (larger than 5 millimeters in diameter — about the size of a pencil eraser).

  • Block urine flow.

  • Are very painful.