Kidney stones are a moderately common problem in the United States, especially during the summer months. As temperatures rise, many aren’t replenishing their bodies with water they need. At the Nephrology Associates of Greater Cincinnati, we hope you never have to experience a kidney stone, but if you do, here are a few things you can expect.
Diagnosing kidney stones
You might have a kidney stone if you’re experiencing severe pain in your groin, lower abdomen, or back, along with pain while urinating and an increased urge to urinate.
To confirm the presence of a kidney stone, your nephrologist may recommend one or more of the following tests:
An analysis of your blood can identify the presence of excess calcium or uric acid – signs you may have a kidney stones or be at risk for developing one.
You may be asked to do a 24-hour urine test in which you collect samples of your urine over two days. Urine analysis can identify if there are too many stone-forming minerals in your urine or too few stone-preventing minerals.
Imaging tests like abdominal x-rays, ultrasounds, or CT scans may be used to locate a kidney stone and recommend a treatment plan.
If small kidney stones are detected, you may be asked to pee through a strainer to catch passed stones for analysis. Determining the makeup of the stones can help your nephrologist identify what’s causing them and form a prevention plan for you.
Kidney stone treatment
The size and cause of the stone will determine what treatment your nephrologist recommends.
Small kidney stones don’t typically need invasive treatment. You may be instructed to drink enough water (up to 2 or 3 quarts) to produce clear urine. This dilutes your urine and may be enough to pass a small stone.
Your nephrologist might suggest taking over the counter pain relievers like Advil or Tylenol to relieve discomfort caused by passing the stones. An alpha blocker may also be prescribed to help you pass the kidney stone faster with less discomfort.
Kidney stones that are too big to be passed through the urinary tract will need to be removed with a procedure.
Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL)
Shock wave therapy uses sound waves to produce vibrations that break the kidney stone into smaller pieces. The procedure takes about an hour and can be administered under light anesthesia or sedation.
If ESWL is not successful, your nephrologist may recommend surgically removing the stone. This procedure uses small instruments to extract the kidney stone and is administered under general anesthesia.
Small to mid-sized kidney stones in your ureter or kidney may be successfully broken up during a scope procedure. A thin tube with a camera on the end, called a ureteroscope, is first passed through the urethra and bladder to locate the stone. Then, your doctor will use tools that can capture the stone or break it into pieces. A stent may be placed in the ureter to help relieve swelling and encourage healing.
If you think you have a kidney stone, the Nephrology Associates of Greater Cincinnati can help. Our physicians specialize in treating larger kidney stones, complex kidney stone conditions, and stone prevention.