Kidney Stones Surgery

While there are a number of treatment options for kidney stones that work in most cases, there are times when a more invasive treatment may be required. This page discusses the parameters for determining if kidney stone surgery is needed as well as what is involved in having the surgery – the procedure, the complications and the recovery period.

Why Have Kidney Stone Surgery?

Considered the last resort, surgery is rarely needed as a treatment to remove kidney stones. However, if other types of treatments do not work, it may be time to consider kidney stones surgery. Surgery may be the right option for you if the kidney stone:

  • Results from an infection (also known as staghorn kidney stones).
  • Grows too large to pass or is located where another treatment cannot reach it.
  • Blocks the flow of urine.
  • Does not pass after a reasonable amount of time and is causing considerable discomfort.
  • Results in recurring urinary tract infections.
  • Damages kidney tissue that can result in bleeding.
  • Is present in an obese person.

As a treatment, kidney stone surgery results in a very high success rate of complete stone removal. However, it is also important to note that kidney stone surgery is performed on less than 2% of individuals who have this ailment at present.

What’s Involved in Kidney Stone Surgery?

Kidney stone surgery goes by the complicated medical term of nephrolithotomy. In layman’s terms, it is referred to as open surgery because it involves an incision into the body in order to access and remove the stone properly.

X-rays are used to identify the specific areas where the stone or stones are so that the surgeon can pinpoint the best location to open the patient up. An incision is first made in the abdomen or flank. Then the kidney is carefully cut, paying special attention so that the arteries of the kidneys are protected.

While the surgical procedure is taking place, ice is used to keep the kidneys cooled so that they do not become irritated by the activity. Once the surgeon finds the stone, it is removed and any blockage is corrected so that the kidneys can begin to function properly again. Before the patient is closed up, a catheter is inserted into the kidney so that urine can still drain out of the body while the kidney heals from the invasive procedure.

The Road to Recovery

Kidney stones surgery is considered very painful. To recover from such a delicate surgery requires anywhere from six to nine days in the hospital followed by four to six weeks of rest from normal daily activity. Warning signs to look for during recovery from kidney stone surgery include:

  • Sharp, shooting pain.
  • Fever.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Swelling or redness around the incision area which could signal infection.

If any of these symptoms appear during recovery, you should immediately contact your doctor.

Take Care: The Low-Down on Possible Risks

Because kidney stone surgery is so invasive and delicate, there are a number of possible complications that can arise from the procedure. Risk signs include:

  • Severe bleeding.
  • Infection.
  • Kidney damage.

During a surgery of this nature, anesthesia is used which can lead to other side effects which may include malfunctions in the lung, heart, liver or nervous system as well as brain damage and even death. It is important to review your family history to see if anyone has suffered adverse effects from anesthesia and also discuss it with your physician.

Another Kind of Surgery: Removal of the Parathyroid Gland

In rare cases, kidney stones develop due to an imbalance in hormone production. To prevent stones from recurring once they are treated, a different kind of kidney stone surgery may be required. This involves removing the parathyroid gland, which is discussed more in another article on this website.

Eliminating Kidney Stones Surgery: Revolutionary Treatments

Up until twenty years ago, surgery was the only option to remove kidney stones. Patients had to deal with a painful procedure that required extensive recovery time. Today, as the medical industry has made new in-roads into understanding kidney stones and how they work, a number of treatment options have become available making surgery rarely necessary.

Beyond kidney stone surgery, there are a host of less invasive medical procedures, such as extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL), laser lithotripsy, and ureteroscopy. These treatments are less painful, result in fewer complications, and require minimal recovery time.

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