Kidney Stones – Condition Overview

Kidney stones are one of the most common conditions that urologists treat. Stones of the urinary tract are more common in males than females. Kidney stones are more common in Caucasians than any other ethnic group.

Most stones form in the kidney itself. The stone may or may not cause pain. If a stone migrates out of the kidney and down the tube that drains the kidney into the bladder (the ureter), the kidney may not be able to drain completely. Severe pain may result from the increased pressure.

The pain from a kidney stone is typically sudden in onset and quite severe. Associated symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, fever and chills if infection is present. Prompt medical attention is critical. A kidney x-ray called an IVP is typically performed. A significant percentage of smaller stones in the lower ureter will pass spontaneously.

Kidney Stones located in the upper part of the urinary tract, or those too large to pass, may require intervention. Most kidney stones are treated with shock wave technology, which utilize externally generated shock waves that travel through the body and fragment the stone into particles that pass through the urinary tract.

Treating Kidney Stones

These patients are treated on an outpatient basis. Stones that are not receptive to treatment with shock waves can generally be treated with a small instrument called a ureteroscope, which is inserted into the ureter tube under anesthesia. A small laser is passed through the scope and laser energy is used to fragment the stone.