Kidney Stone Treatment Options
Kidney stone treatment varies depending on the type of stone and how severe your symptoms are. Your doctor will work with you to determine the most appropriate treatment for you.
Your kidney stone treatment may include one or more of the following options:
2-3 Quarts of Water a Day and Pain Medication
If the stone is less than 5 mm, it usually will pass without medical intervention. In this case, we may prescribe pain medication and an increase in fluid intake. The stone usually passes within one to three weeks, and your doctor usually asks you to save the kidney stone for testing.
Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL)
Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL) is the most common procedure for treating kidney stones. In ESWL, shock waves that are created outside of the body travel through the skin and body tissues until they hit the denser stones. The kidney stones break down into small particles and are easily passed through the urinary track in the urine. In many cases, ESWL is an outpatient procedure. Recover time is relatively short, and most people can resume normal activities in a few days.
Ureteroscopic Stone Removal
Ureteroscopy may be needed for mid- and lower-uterer stones. No incision is made in this procedure. Instead, your surgeon passes a small fiberoptic instrument called a ureteroscope through the urethra and bladder into the ureter. Your surgeon then locates the stone and removes it with a cage-like device or shatteri it with a special instrument that produces a form of shock wave. A small tube or stent may be left in the ureter for a few days to help urine flow.
Kidney Stone Surgery
Surgery may be needed to remove a kidney stone if it:
- Does not pass after a reasonable period of time and causes constant pain
- Is too large to pass on its own or is caught in a difficult place
- Blocks the flow of urine
- Causes an ongoing urinary tract infection
- Damages kidney tissue or causes constant bleeding
- Has grown larger, as seen on follow-up X-rays
Until 20 years ago, open surgery was necessary to remove a kidney stone. This open surgery required a recovery time of 4 to 6 weeks. Today, treatment for kidney stones is greatly improved. Many options do not require major open surgery and can be performed in an outpatient setting.
Kidney Stone Prevention
Patients who have had kidney stones are very likely to experience future kidney stones. Therefore, we may recommend changes to diet and increasing daily fluid intake to help prevent this recurrence.
A simple and important lifestyle change in preventing stones is to drink more liquids: water is best. Someone who tends to form kidney stones should try to drink enough liquids throughout the day to produce at least 2 quarts of urine every 24 hours.
In the past, people prone to producing calcium stones were told to avoid dairy products and other foods with high calcium content. However, recent studies show that foods high in calcium may help prevent calcium stones. Taking calcium pills does not have the same effect. In fact, calcium pills may increase the risk of developing kidney stones.
You may be told to avoid food with added vitamin D and certain types of antacids that have a calcium base. Someone who has highly acidic urine may need to eat less meat, fish and poultry.