Kidney stones (calculi) typically form when your urine becomes too concentrated, causing crystals to separate from the urine and build up inside the kidneys. Stones may be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball. Some stones pass out of the body without the need for intervention, but others can cause severe pain if they become trapped in your kidneys or one of your ureters (the narrow tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder).
Kidney stones are typically characterized by sudden, intense pain in your back or side near your kidney which may radiate towards your abdomen, groin or genitals. Often patients experience nausea or vomiting, blood in their urine, frequent urination, and painful urination. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms you should contact your doctor or one of our doctors at Norman Urology. Sometimes patients will experience a fever with stone symptoms. This can be a medical emergency and should prompt an immediate evaluation in the emergency department.
Diagnosis of stone disease is generally made by history, physical exam, examination of urine as well as imaging studies such as a CT scan or XRay. Once the diagnosis is made, patients with smaller stones and tolerable symptoms sometimes pass them without intervention. However many people with larger stones or severe symptoms will need surgical treatment. Fortunately, our surgeons have extensive experience with a variety of methods to remove stones:
Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL): For certain kidney stones, a nonsurgical approach of fragmenting the stone with shock waves may be used. Initially, these machines were enormous, cumbersome to use, and uncomfortable for the patient. The Doctors at Norman Urology use the latest technology in their extracorporeal shock wave lithotripter. This new generation machine allows better imaging of the kidney stone with more precise delivery of the shock waves to minimize the risk to surrounding organs. This procedure is generally an outpatient treatment with as little disruption in the life as possible. The Doctors at Norman Urology have performed this procedure on thousands of patients with excellent results.
Ureteroscopy: Some stones are not amenable to shock wave therapy either because of the type of stone or location within the urinary tract. However, technological advances in surgical equipment has produced smaller fiberoptic scopes which allows doctors to see inside the human body. One of the places in which the largest advances have been made is in the imaging of the urinary tract with these small scopes. The Doctors at Norman Urology are experts in the field of ureteroscopy and endourology. Their expertise in this area allows patients with difficult to reach kidney stones to be treated with small scopes and lasers to remove the stones. In the past, patients spent days in the hospital after treatment for these conditions. Today the vast majority of these procedures can be performed successfully as an outpatient.
Percutaneous Nephrostolithotomy (PCNL): Some stones of the kidney are too large to be treated with shock waves or ureteroscopy and require a more aggressive but still minimally invasive approach. In these patients a small tube can be placed through the back directly into the kidney to allow treatment of the stone or tumor. Our Doctors once again specialize in this technique. Working closely with our interventional radiologists, we have the latest in imaging techniques for this procedure resulting in excellent success rates for our patients.