Although most kidney stones will pass through the body without medical intervention, sometimes surgery may be required.
All kidney stones start off small, but some can continue growing as more minerals attach to them. The bigger they get, the more difficult they are to pass naturally. They can also lead to numerous other health issues if they are quite big, as they cause blockages along the urinary tract.
Kidney stone surgery can prove invaluable for those suffering with severe symptoms. Here, you’ll learn more about the different types of surgery on offer and when it might be needed.
Why Might I Need Surgery?
The main reasons you may need surgery for your kidney stones include:
- The stones are too big to pass naturally
- You are in severe pain
- You cannot urinate
When the stones are particularly big, they can be really difficult to pass naturally. They can also lead to blockages which can prevent you from urinating. Although it is common for those with kidney stones to not be able to fully empty the bladder when they go, if no urine at all comes out it is a major problem.
You could also need surgery if you are in severe pain. Kidney stones can cause excruciating pain and often pain relief medication can help. However, if it doesn’t and the pain is too much, surgery can help to eliminate the stones quickly.
Understanding the Different Types of Surgery
There are three main types of kidney stone surgery. These include shockwave lithotripsy, percutaneous nephrolithotomy and ureteroscopy.
Shockwave lithotripsy tends to be the most common type of surgery used. It is especially suitable for medium and small stones and it’s a non-invasive procedure. You’ll be given medication before the treatment to ease pain and discomfort. Then an ultrasound or x-ray will be used to locate the stones. High-energy shockwaves will be sent through to the kidney, breaking up the stones as they pass through.
Percutaneous nephrolithotomy tends to be used as a last resort for larger stones. A small tube is used to reach the stones, using high frequency sound waves to break them up. You won’t usually be awake with this type of surgery and it will usually take between 25-45 minutes.
Ureteroscopy is used to treat kidney stones located in the ureters and kidneys. A flexible, thin scope is used to locate and remove the stones. The scope is passed through the bladder, and a small basket is used to collect the stones.
The type of surgery you need will depend upon where the stones are and how large they are.
What Are the Risks and Complications?
Like any type of surgery, the methods used for kidney stone removal do come with some risks and complications. The surgeon will explain these to you during your consultation. It is important to weigh up the risks and complications with the benefits of the surgery.
The above are the main types of surgery that can be used to remove kidney stones. Most of the time they will pass naturally without surgery. However, it’s good to be aware of your options in case you do need surgical treatment.