Kidney stones (renal lithiasis, nephrolithiasis) are small, hard mineral deposits that form inside your kidneys. The stones are made of mineral and acid salts. A doctor can detect them using blood testing, urine tests, X-rays, ultrasounds, or CT scans. Most kidney stones are small and can be passed by drinking lots of water and taking pain medication. A doctor may also recommend preventive treatment to reduce the risk of recurrent stones if a patient displays enough risk factors. For larger and more severe kidney stones, the following procedures are most often used, depending on various factors:
Shockwave therapy, which uses X-ray targeting and focused sound waves from outside the body (using a machine called a lithotripter) to break up stones into fragments that can then be passed. Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) is one such treatment, and is the most common invasive treatment for kidney stones in the U.S.
By scope (ureteroscopy), which requires a small, flexible camera inserted by a doctor into the bladder to the ureter and kidney. After locating the stone the doctor will use the scope to break it into fragments that are either extracted or allowed to pass.
Percutaneous nephrolithotomy requires a small incision in the back allowing a small telescope (nephroscope) and other instruments to be inserted directly into the kidney to break up and remove fragments. This procedure may require a short hospital stay.
Open surgery is used only in extremely rare cases. It involves a larger incision in the abdomen to expose the kidney or portion of ureter that is involved with the stone.
Parathyroid gland surgery. Some calcium phosphate stones are caused by overactive parathyroid glands (or a benign tumor on a gland). Too much parathyroid hormone (hyperparathyroidism) increases calcium levels, and can result in kidney stones.