Do Kidney Stones Require Surgery? Understanding Kidney Stone Removal

  • Pain Management
  • Lifestyle - senior care
  • April 28, 2023

Kidney stones are managed conservatively or surgically. Small stones require no treatment or just medication.

Developing Kidney Stones

When the body does not have enough fluid to dilute certain crystal-forming substances in the urine, a kidney stone can develop. Kidney stones can occur anywhere in the urinary tract, including the kidneys, ureter, urethra, and bladder. Calcium, uric acid, struvite, and cystine are the different kinds of kidney stones. The main symptom of kidney stones is severe lower back pain on the sides and back. To relieve pain, both medical and surgical treatments are available, but management depends on the type and size of the stone.

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Symptoms of a stone

A person with a small kidney stone may not display any symptoms. In other circumstances, the key symptom of kidney stones is lower back or abdomen pain. Sometimes the pain can travel to the groin area in men. Other possible symptoms are blood in the urine, foul-smelling urine, frequent urination, fever, nausea, and vomiting. The passing of the kidney stone depends on the size. Small kidney stones take about 1-2 weeks, while large stones take 2-3 weeks to pass.

Let it flow

Small kidney stones usually do not require surgery and can be managed conservatively. Drinking lots of water is the best way to ensure the stones pass through the urinary tract. Over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications are recommended if a patient is in pain. If necessary, the healthcare provider may prescribe medications such as alpha-blockers to help pass the kidney stones.

When is surgery necessary?

If a kidney stone is relatively large, then surgical intervention may be required. Surgery may also be recommended when the patient is in agonizing pain or has blocked urine flow. A patient with many urinary tract infections (UTIs) due to kidney stones may require surgery to remove the stones.

Choosing the right approach

There are 4 different types of surgical interventions for kidney stone removal. The decision about which procedure to pursue is based on the location and size of the kidney stone. Shock wave lithotripsy is for small or medium stones, while ureteroscopy is for stone removal from the kidney and ureter. Percutaneous nephrolithotomy or nephrolithotripsy is reserved for patients with large stones or if lithotripsy fails to break up the stone. Open surgery is uncommon but used if the kidney stone does not manage to break with other treatments.

Prevention is key

A person can follow a few methods to avoid getting a kidney stone. Drinking lots of water is the most important preventive method. Consuming less oxalate-rich foods and cutting down on salt and animal protein can also help reduce the risk of developing stones.

Say goodbye to kidney stones

If experiencing lower back or abdomen pain on the sides, a kidney stone could be in the process of passing through the urinary tract. Small kidney stones typically pass without intervention, while larger stones are usually managed with surgery. Although kidney stones can be painful, the good news is that treatment is available should the stone not pass. Soon enough, the patient will be kidney stone free and feeling much better.

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