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Kidney stone treatment varies depending on the type of stone and the cause.
Most small kidney stones don’t require invasive treatment and may be passed by:
- Drinking water
- Taking pain relievers
- Taking medication – an alpha blocker can be used to relax muscles, helping to pass the stone more quickly and with less pain.
Kidney stones that cause bleeding, kidney damage, ongoing urinary tract infections or other complications may require more extensive treatment. Procedures typically include:
- Shock wave lithotripsy (SWL) is a technique that breaks up stones into little pieces using shock waves from outside the body and is often performed under anesthesia. SWL does not work well on hard or large stones
- Ureteroscopy uses a small scope, retrieval device and stone-breaking tools. A temporary stent can sometimes be placed in the ureter rather than a drain tube or catheter and external bag
Who is a candidate?
Good candidates for SWL and ureteroscopy are those who cannot pass a kidney or ureteral stone on their own, have severe pain, large stones or stones in both kidneys.
What to expect
Several factors determine how kidney stones are treated, so what patients can expect will vary depending on the treatment. The patient may choose to wait for the stone to pass at home if the pain is bearable, the stone is small enough, if there is no sign of infection and if there is adequate urine flow from the kidney. Medication can also be used to help the stone pass. Tamsulosin (brand name Flomax) can be used to relax the ureter.
Shock wave lithotripsy and ureteroscopies are usually done on an outpatient basis with quick recovery times.