Kidney stones are hard deposits formed by minerals such as calcium or waste products such as uric acid in the kidneys. It begins small but might grow as more minerals adhere to them. Kidney stones can vary in size. While some are as small as a grain of sand, others can be larger than a golf ball. Smaller stones may be able to pass through the urinary tract on their own. However, larger stones may become stuck and cause blockages that lead to pain and other symptoms.
Some factors that may influence the decision to have a kidney stone surgery include the size of the stone, its location, and whether or not the stone is causing pain or other symptoms. In some cases, surgery is the best kidney stones treatment for patients.
You might need treatment or surgery to remove kidney stones when:
- The stone is big and cannot pass through the urinary tract.
- You’re in pain and discomfort.
- The stone is obstructing the urine flow.
- It is causing urinary tract infections.
Symptoms of Kidney Stones
Acute cramping pain in the back and side is a common symptom of kidney stones. This sensation frequently spreads to the lower abdomen or groin. The pain usually comes on suddenly and in waves. As the body tries to get rid of the stone, the pain may come and go.
Some additional symptoms of a kidney stone are:
- Strong urge to go to the bathroom.
- Urinating more frequently or experiencing a burning sensation while urinating.
- Urine that is dark or red due to the presence of blood. Sometimes, only a few red blood cells in the urine can’t be detected with the naked eye.
- Nausea and vomiting are common side effects.
- Soreness near the tip of the penis.
Factors leading to an increased risk for kidney stones
Kidney stones are a common occurrence. Some of the risk factors include:
- Infections and diseases of the digestive and urinary systems
- Certain medications
Treatment of Kidney Stones
Best Kidney stones treatment depends on the type of stone, its severity, and the length of time you’ve been experiencing symptoms. There are several therapies a patient can avail of after discussing all options with their health care professional.
Allow the stone to pass by on its own
Often, all you need to do is wait for the stone to pass. Smaller stones are more likely to pass on their own than larger stones.
Waiting for the stone to pass for up to four to six weeks is safe if:
- the discomfort is manageable,
- there are no signs of infection,
- it is not causing obstructions to the kidney,
- the stone is small enough to pass through the urinary tract.
Patients should drink plenty of water while waiting for the stone to pass. If in pain, medication may be required.
Certain drugs help facilitate the likelihood of a stone passing naturally. Tamsulosin is the most recommended medicine for this purpose. Tamsulosin (Flomax) relaxes the ureter, allowing the stone to flow more easily. However, while patients wait for the stone to pass, they may require pain and nausea medication.
Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy (PCNL)
If a surgical procedure is recommended, then the best kidney stones treatment is percutaneous lithotripsy (PCNL). To perform a PCNL, patients undergo general anesthesia. PCNL entails a half-inch cut in the back or side of the kidney, just large enough for a rigid telescope (nephroscope) to be introduced into the hollow center region of the kidney to reach the stone. A device inserted into the nephroscope breaks apart the stone and sucks the particles out. PCNL is an excellent treatment option for big stones because of its capacity to suction fragments.
A catheter is frequently left in the kidney after the PCNL to empty urine into a bag outside the body. It will allow urine to drain and any bleeding to stop. The tube is left in for several days or overnight, depending on the severity of the condition. Patients may have to spend the night in the hospital after this procedure.
Other surgical procedures
Other procedures are rarely performed to remove stones from the kidneys. If other less intrusive techniques fail, open, laparoscopic, or robotic surgery may be employed. Two main types of surgeries performed to remove kidney stones are:
This minimally invasive procedure involves inserting a small telescope-like device (Ureteroscope) into the urinary tract through the urethra. Once the Ureteroscope is in place, the doctor can view the kidney stones and break them up using a laser or other tools. The fragments of the kidney stones are then removed through the urethra.
This type of surgery involves making a large incision in the abdomen to access the kidney. After the stone is removed, the incision is closed with stitches or staples.
What are the sizes of kidney stones that require surgery?
The bigger a stone is, the lower the probability of it passing naturally. Surgery is advisable for stones bigger than 0.5 cm in diameter and those that have failed to respond to conservative treatment.
Kidney stones can be moderate or severe, depending on their size and progression. Today’s stone removal treatments are both minimally intrusive and very successful. Thus, getting the best kidney stones treatment as soon as possible will save you a lot of discomfort and reduce the chances of other complications.