The Facts About Lithotripsy for Kidney Stones

October 6, 2022 9:55 am Published by

If you’ve ever had a kidney stone, you are not alone. One in 10 Americans will have one in their lifetime. Most stones pass on their own, but when they don’t, you may need treatment, such as lithotripsy for kidney stones.

Kidney Stone Basics

Kidney stones are hard objects made of calcium and other chemicals found in the blood. Normally, your urine contains dissolved minerals and salts, but sometimes, those minerals build up and can crystallize, forming stones.

Those stones start out tiny, but in some cases can grow quite large, making it difficult for them to pass through your urine. There are multiple types of kidney stones, varying by the minerals they contain. Calcium stones are the most common, accounting for around 80% of kidney stones.

In some cases, small kidney stones won’t cause any symptoms and they’ll pass through the body on their own. As stones get larger, though, they’re more likely to cause symptoms, which may include:

  • An intense need to urinate
  • Blood in the urine
  • Burning sensation when urinating
  • More frequent urination
  • Nausea and vomiting

A common cause of kidney stones is low urine volume caused by dehydration. Diet can also play a role, and medical providers may recommend a different diet if you experience kidney stones more than once.

If you are obese, have a medical condition affecting the parathyroid gland or have certain bowel conditions, you may also be at a higher risk of developing kidney stones.

How to Treat Kidney Stones

If you’re experiencing symptoms that may be related to a kidney stone, your medical provider will likely order an ultrasound or a CT scan.

In many cases, kidney stones require no treatment. Your provider may recommend simply waiting to see if the stone passes on its own, particularly if your pain is manageable. You may be given a medication designed to relax the ureter and allow the stone to pass through.

If the stone is large, if it’s interfering with kidney function, or if you’re experiencing pain and other symptoms, your provider may recommend surgical intervention. There are many types of surgery to remove kidney stones, but extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy is the most common.

During a lithotripsy procedure, a surgeon sends shock waves to the kidney stone. The surgeon uses X-ray or ultrasound to ensure precise targeting of the stone, and as the waves bombard the stone, it breaks into fragments. This allows passing stone fragments to travel out of the body through urine, which may take weeks. You may be given a small strainer to catch those fragments when urinating so that they can be tested to determine the type of kidney stone.

Surgeons often use general anesthesia during lithotripsy since the shock waves can cause mild discomfort. Patients are usually discharged from the hospital on the same day as the procedure and can resume normal activity within a few days.

When you need a surgical procedure, Magnolia Regional Health Center has you covered with a full spectrum of surgical services.

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This post was written by Magnolia Regional Health Center