Helpful Information for Patients
What are Kidney Stones?
The urine produced by our body contains a variety of minerals and salts apart from water. When these components are allowed to build up, a stone can form in the kidney. Kidney stones are solid structures that can travel from the kidneys to the bladder through a connecting tube known as the ureter. Problems arise usually when these stones are lodged in the ureter, blocking the flow of urine and causing pain.
How would you know if you have Kidney Stones?
Kidney stones often do not cause any discomfort in the initial stages and hence, can be easily overlooked. When complications do appear, they can include pain that seems to move from the back and sides to the lower abdominal region, blood in the urine, a strong urge to urinate, reduced urine flow or pain during urination. Additionally, there can be fever and chills if there is an infection of the urinary tract caused by the kidney stones.
How we can help
To confirm the presence of kidney stones, the urinary tract would need to be examined. This can be done through the use of X-rays, CT scans and ultrasounds. If there is a need for treatment, there are many methods that can be used, depending on the type, size and location of the kidney stones.
Kidney stones do not usually require any form of surgery and can be passed out on its own. During this period, medications may be given to reduce the pain or help promote the passing out of the stone.
Persistent Kidney Stones
If kidney stones do not pass out on their own, there are procedures that can help its removal. One such method is called Shockwave Lithotripsy (SWL). This procedure makes use of shockwaves along with either an ultrasound or X-ray for guidance, to break the stones in the kidney into smaller fragments. These fragments can then be passed out in the urine.
Occasionally, certain kidney stones are unable to be broken down using shockwaves and, in these cases, the doctor would recommend a Ureteroscopy (URS). URS involves the passing of a thin telescope called the ureteroscope into the bladder and into the ureter. A small apparatus is attached to the ureteroscope which would allow the surgeon to grab the kidney stones and remove them. If the stones are too large, pulses of a laser can also be used to break the stones into smaller pieces for removal. A stent may also be placed in the ureter to allow urine to pass from the kidney to the bladder.
When kidney stones get too large, a procedure known as Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy (PCNL) may be required. A small incision is made on the back and a telescope known as a nephroscope is passed through to where the stone is located. A device is then passed through the nephroscope to break the kidney stone into smaller pieces and the pieces are suctioned out. Urine is then drained into a bag through a tube in the kidney until recovery.