When it comes to kidney stones, there are several different treatment options, which can make choosing the right one for your unique situation somewhat confusing.
To help shed some light on the best way to rid yourself of this painful condition, Robert J. Cornell, MD, PA, has pulled together the following information on each procedure. Here, he outlines the options, and when each should be used, in order to help his Houston area patients better understand their treatment choices.
Let it pass
After a thorough evaluation of your kidney stones using advanced diagnostic imaging, we can better assess the size, number, and location of the stones in order to determine whether you would benefit from medical intervention or whether we should leave well enough alone and let Mother Nature run its course.
If your stones are small and poised to be flushed out through your urinary tract, we arm you with some pain medication and send you home with instructions to drink plenty of water — two to three quarts a day — in order to help flush the stones out. Passing a kidney stone is painful, but the good news is that the once the stone is expelled, you’ll feel instant relief.
We do ask that you try to save the stone so that we can perform an analysis on it to help you prevent future stones from developing.
While we always prefer a more conservative treatment, such as letting your kidney stone pass naturally, there can come a time when we need to facilitate this passage through surgical intervention.
For example, if your stone is stubborn about passing naturally and continues to cause you pain, we may need to go in and remove it. As well, if you develop a urinary tract infection or your urine is blocked, intervention is key in order to prevent bigger problems in your urinary system.
Lastly, some stones can simply grow too big for them to pass through your urinary tract, in which case we need to go in to free up your system and relieve your pain.
A shocking solution
In most cases where intervention is needed, we rely on extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy — a technique that doesn’t require any incisions. Using ultrasound or X-ray guidance, we pinpoint the location of the stone and send in shockwaves that break the stone apart, reducing it to tiny pieces that you can easily pass through your urinary tract.
Recovery from this procedure is relatively quick, usually just a few days, but you may have some residual bruising or tenderness where the shockwaves passed through.
Hard to reach
If your kidney stone(s) are located in your mid or lower ureter, we may turn to an ureteroscopy to remove them. Here again, there are no incisions needed for this procedure. Instead, we thread a very small fiberoptic ureteroscope through to your ureter. Once we locate the stone, we either remove it or shatter it.
Size and location
If your kidney stone is on the larger side, or it’s located in a tricky spot that isn’t conducive to the other procedures above, we may turn to a percutaneous nephrolithotomy. In this procedure, we make a tiny incision in your back for direct access to your kidney. Using an instrument called a nephroscope, we locate and remove your kidney stone.
Since this procedure is the more invasive of the three, you need to stay in the hospital for a few days, because we usually insert a nephrostomy tube into your kidney while you heal.
The bottom line is that if you’re suffering from painful kidney stones, we can help them pass in many different ways depending upon their size and location. But we do help them pass, which is the important part.
If you’d like to learn more about your treatment options, please feel free to call us or request an appointment by filling out the form found on this website.